Why Sailboats Dock Bow In or Stern In

sailboat docking stern bow, Why Sailboats Dock Bow In or Stern In

Privacy Versus Party?

New sailors often are mystified about why some sailboats dock bow into the pier, and some prefer to tie up stern facing the dock. There are several reasons for this preference! I’ve always tried to assign a “stress number” to each maneuver to determine an overall anxiety scale on docking. If coming into a dock bow in is a score of 3 out of 10, and exiting stern out is a 7 out of 10; that’s a combined anxiety score of 10. Stern in initial docking renders an anxiety score of 5, and exiting a 3. The overall stress factor there might be a 8; so your cumulative stress score actually is lower. Personally, I feel there is more control bringing a stern to the dock and allowing the bow to follow, but many sailors, especially those with full keels, feel it’s easier to bring the bow in – so here are some factors to consider.

Bow In

A bow-in tie up seems to be the easiest maneuver. Seems. That’s not always the case. However, here are the reasons why a boater may prefer to have their bow facing the main dock.

  1. Privacy – it puts your stern away from the traffic on the pier.
  2. Feels easier.
  3. Overhanging dinghy davits to conk people on the head.
  4. Overhanging solar panels.
  5. Full keep, prop walk, discomfort maneuvering the vessel.

Stern In

While it may seem more difficult stern-in docking does have it’s benefits, including maneuverability.

  1. Power cord is not long enough.
  2. Owner does not want shore power cord draped along the deck.
  3. Vessel is longer than the dock.
  4. Easier to control stern angle into the slip using bow thruster.
  5. Maintenance – stern/steps are closer for workers coming and going frequently.
  6. Bow anchor won’t hang over the dock.
  7. Boat is longer than the dock, stern will stick out, stern line cannot stop the boat; 1/3 miracle snub up line is needed.
  8. Easier to abort the docking and move forward out of a tight spot.
  9. Can step on and off the swim platform if you have one.
  10. Can use stern lines also as crossed springs to hold stern off finger dock.
  11. Stern in puts the helmsperson right at the crucial spot; less depth perception necessary.
  12. Some finger piers end before the gate in the lifelines.
  13. Grocery loading.
  14. Dog loading.
  15. In the Med, and easier to walk the passerelle.

Toss Up – the Factors That Change

  1. Setting sun at sundowner hour – evenings in the cockpit might depend on hot afternoon sun.
  2. Weather is going to be awful later – so you must set yourself up for the smoother departure.
  3. Weather is awful now, will be better later, so you choose what’s easiest right now.
  4. Wind. This changes everything.
  5. Current. This can change everytihing.
  6. Sun desired on the solar panels. Will dock just to put them in the light!
  7. Party dock – you might want to be part of it, you might want to avoid it.
  8. Theft – Aesop’s Fable about the stag – is the danger from the dock or the water?
  9. Floating dock or fixed dock – combined with vessel shape, tide range, and so on.

End Assessment

It’s different for every boat, every dock, every helmsperson. So many factors, right down to the angle of the setting sun, affect this choice of whether to dock bow in or stern in. Practice both so that when one or the other is best; you are capable.

sailboat docking stern bow, Why Sailboats Dock Bow In or Stern In

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