“Chance favors the prepared mind.”
As Rhett Butler said to his cruising partner, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” That’s how I feel about the consoling statement, “Don’t worry about the wind when you dock, you’ve done this hundreds of times before!” In the Bahamas, it is important to have planned a ‘safe haven’ when the winds kick up and typical anchorages become unprotected.
We love anchoring out, but as the winds began to pick up over 20 knots at Manjack Cay, it was wise to seek a harbor that was protected. North of Whale Cay Passage, which is impassible in high NE winds, our favorite is White Sound on Green Turtle Cay. As we entered White Sound, the winds had increased to 25+ knots, the anchorage was full and all moorings were taken. UGH. The best alternative was a slip at the Bluff House Marina.
A 51’ Formosa Ketch and a large catamaran were entering at the same time, so we let the Formosa get tied up before us. As the winds blew them off the dock and they required their winches to pull themselves in to their slip, I knew that this was going to be another ‘challenging opportunity’ for us to dock. In this case we had bow and stern lines out on both port and starboard as well as multiple spring lines. Finally, we headed as best we could into the wind and pivoted around a piling at the opening of our slip. A half dozen cruisers at the dock took lines and offered encouragement as we pulled in with no damage, but I did have a few frayed nerves.
As the nylon lines stretched we reset them and lowered fenders by the dock and each piling nearby. Having extra lines and fenders is a must when preparing for adverse conditions at a dock. Here are a few tips as well:
1. Try to approach the dock, or slip, up from down wind or down current. This allows you to approach slower and with control over your speed. Note: never approach a dock faster than you want to hit it!
2. Tie off your stern with direct and cris-cross lines. This helps position the yacht properly as the winds clock around. Yes, we were up at 2:30 AM to add the extra line!
3. Place a fender on the ladder if it is off your stern swim platform. This protects you when the wind shifts and tries to blow the yacht back onto the dock. Note, that a swim platform is not designed to be a rubrail!
4. Place fenders on rails by pilings and docks prior to the wind shifting. Pushing a 70+K lb yacht off a dock while fighting against a 25 knot wind is not a pleasant exercise, as we learned back at the Marathon Yacht Club. As the saying goes on a boat, “Prior planning avoids pulled back muscles.”
I hope that this helps. Now we get to go meet all these kind people that helped us tie up.