Does size really matter when you’re single handed?

Kukri

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The getting alongside business:

This relates to 50ft+ boats.

You must obviously have a midships cleat, and you must obviously step onto the pontoon warp in hand and belay that line very quickly.

As Pyrojames said much earlier in this thread the single hander must be able to get from wheel and throttle to amidships very fast indeed. I can just about do this, on my boat, because the helmsman’s cockpit is higher than the gorilla pit, but if I had to get past the wheel and climb up the very deep cockpit sides I would not have a chance.

Now, having got ashore with your one line the boat is not going to just sit quietly - you need to get control of the ends.

That means that as part of the going alongside preparations with fenders, etc. , you should take a line from bow and stern outside everything and make them off where you can get to them from the jetty or pontoon. On the midships cleat, in fact, because by definition that is going to be the spot on your boat that you are most likely to be able to reach from the jetty.
 
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Zing

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The getting alongside business:

This relates to 50ft+ boats.

You must obviously have a midships cleat, and you must obviously step onto the pontoon warp in hand and belay that line very quickly.

As Pyrojames said much earlier in this thread the single hander must be able to get from wheel and throttle to amidships very fast indeed. I can just about do this, on my boat, because the helmsman’s cockpit is higher than the gorilla pit, but if I had to get past the wheel and climb up the very deep cockpit sides I would not have a chance.

Now, having got ashore with your one line the boat is not going to just sit quietly - you need to get control of the ends.

That means that as part of the going alongside preparations with fenders, etc. , you should take a line from bow and stern outside everything and make them off where you can get to them from the jetty or pontoon. On the midships cleat, in fact, because by definition that is going to be the spot on your boat that you are most likely to be able to reach from the jetty.
A midship cleat, yes. Just to underscore this. It’s all you need really. A bow thruster, a working engine powering against it too is good. Don’t forget the fenders too.
 

Neil

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Quite right, it's worse.
Just coming up to the mooring and a voice pipes up, "Grandad there's all this water coming in from the toilet" etc.

Mike
Or keeping one eye on the pontoon and the other on the toddler who is about to fall in. I actually hadn't realised the amount of stress I had ben under until I handed back the keys - I was literally flooded with the feeling of relief
 

Kukri

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A midship cleat, yes. Just to underscore this. It’s all you need really. A bow thruster, a working engine powering against it too is good. Don’t forget the fenders too.
If you are single handed,100% of the crew are on the pontoon belaying the midships line to the pontoon cleat. This means that the whole crew will have to get back on board to put the engine back into gear. Quicker to take a bow line and belay that and then a stern line, or vice versa (your vessel may vary).
 

Zing

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If you are single handed,100% of the crew are on the pontoon belaying the midships line to the pontoon cleat. This means that the whole crew will have to get back on board to put the engine back into gear. Quicker to take a bow line and belay that and then a stern line, or vice versa (your vessel may vary).
With a midship cleat you have less distance to walk than a bow cleat, so it’s quicker surely? More to the point, on my boat and most I think, it is fairly easy to balance the boat alongside with the engine and a forward or aft running midships line whilst you sort out extra lines. With the bow thruster it is easier still.
 

Daydream believer

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If you are single handed,100% of the crew are on the pontoon belaying the midships line to the pontoon cleat. This means that the whole crew will have to get back on board to put the engine back into gear. Quicker to take a bow line and belay that and then a stern line, or vice versa (your vessel may vary).
It depends on the situation, of course. But if one takes your berth ( on the very rare time that it is actually vacant :rolleyes:) on an end pontoon ( i assume it is yours . Or are you squatting? :( ) it would be very easy for the opposite end of the boat to swing away from the pontoon before one had the chance to secure it ( even if one DID have the line held), if there was an offshore wind. I have had this happen in a couple of places. It is OK on a finger berth with another boat alongside to trap one in place but not where one might drift out into the middle of the Orwell with the boat held by one end on a bit of string..Worse still with an engine running.:eek:. But having a mid cleat it is not beyond one's ability to just lasso the pontoon cleat with a big loop & one end on the boat's cleat & the other ready to make off in one's hand.
But then sod's law does come into play sometimes & even cowboys miss now & then:( .Being aboard does give one the chance to avoid running up the chuff of the next boat down the line.
 
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Kukri

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Was “mine” but I have given it up as I plan to try a buoy.

Back to the matter at hand, the problem comes when the tide is running; if the tide “gets under” one end of the boat the forces coming on the midship cleat, the pontoon cleat and the warp between them can become very large.

Having owned a 37 footer for decades, she was reasonably susceptible to the intelligent application of muscle power; the 55 footer just ignores it!
 

Slowboat35

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Kukri, do you singlehand Kukri?
That's one biig boat to handle alone! I recall them being heavy boats for a crew of ten!
I often struggle with my 10Ton boat, but it's only mooring in marinas where all this matters. The rig will work as long as it is set up for single-person loads - but the 20 seconds it takes to subdue alongside all those wayward tons affected by wind and tide is the crux of the matter imho, and I'm all too well aware that I've been bested by a 2 ton boat more tims than I care to admit..
The point I've taken on board is that in a marina you have to be 100% successful 100% of the time which isn't always going to be the way it pans out if you're solo.
As a singlehander in what I consider a heavy boat I regard marinas as adversaries I try to avoid, especially finger-berths. Hammerheads and alongside work OK if the weather permits but if it doesn't I simply don't want to go there. Anchoring or borrrowing a bouy are far, far less fraught even if it does require the flubber to reach the pub!
 

Kukri

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Kukri, do you singlehand Kukri?
That's one biig boat to handle alone! I recall them being heavy boats for a crew of ten!
I often struggle with my 10Ton boat, but it's only mooring in marinas where all this matters. The rig will work as long as it is set up for single-person loads - but the 20 seconds it takes to subdue alongside all those wayward tons affected by wind and tide is the crux of the matter imho, and I'm all too well aware that I've been bested by a 2 ton boat more tims than I care to admit..
The point I've taken on board is that in a marina you have to be 100% successful 100% of the time which isn't always going to be the way it pans out if you're solo.
As a singlehander in what I consider a heavy boat I regard marinas as adversaries I try to avoid, especially finger-berths. Hammerheads and alongside work OK if the weather permits but if it doesn't I simply don't want to go there. Anchoring or borrrowing a bouy are far, far less fraught even if it does require the flubber to reach the pub!
That’s an excellent and very sensible post.

The answer is “No, but my son and I sail her two up, and experimentally we tried it with one doing all the work and the other reading a book in the cockpit.” We have a friend who owns “Chaser” and he has single handed her regularly. But he’s better than me.

Pyrojames of this parish regularly single hands “Croix des Gardes” which is a wooden 1950s ocean racer of similar size.

Kukri has very nice manners - she behaves like a 23 ton Squib. I’m constantly impressed with the skills of her designer - Ray Wall.

We did get her into and out of a finger berth once.

I very much agree with all you write.
 

westernman

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If you are single handed,100% of the crew are on the pontoon belaying the midships line to the pontoon cleat. This means that the whole crew will have to get back on board to put the engine back into gear. Quicker to take a bow line and belay that and then a stern line, or vice versa (your vessel may vary).
I make a large bowline loop in a warp already belayed to the midships cleat. The warp is about half the length of the boat. If the wind is away from the pontoon (which is the more tricky one), I can back up to the pontoon (the boat goes reliably backwards dead into the wind) under great control and loop the the warp over the bollard which is where I want the stern to end up. Then motor forward, steering to bring the boat alongside and parallel. This is all much easier than it sounds. Then when alongside, leave the engine in gear, and that at leisure fasten the stern, bow and other spring.

If the wind is blowing onto the pontoon, then you just need to nudge the boat forwards and backwards while you let the wind do the work and push the boat sideways to the pontoon. Obviously well fended in the corners in case one end of the boat makes contact first.

More complicated and seriously panic inducing is sailing under sail with no engine a 34 ton boat into a finger berth next to a very shiny multi-million pound super yacht.
 

Supertramp

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I make a large bowline loop in a warp already belayed to the midships cleat. The warp is about half the length of the boat. If the wind is away from the pontoon (which is the more tricky one), I can back up to the pontoon (the boat goes reliably backwards dead into the wind) under great control and loop the the warp over the bollard which is where I want the stern to end up. Then motor forward, steering to bring the boat alongside and parallel. This is all much easier than it sounds. Then when alongside, leave the engine in gear, and that at leisure fasten the stern, bow and other spring.

If the wind is blowing onto the pontoon, then you just need to nudge the boat forwards and backwards while you let the wind do the work and push the boat sideways to the pontoon. Obviously well fended in the corners in case one end of the boat makes contact first.

More complicated and seriously panic inducing is sailing under sail with no engine a 34 ton boat into a finger berth next to a very shiny multi-million pound super yacht.
10 tonnes, long keel, lots of windage and I agree with the methods and the midships cleat. I use a long light alloy tube to place my midships loop over the cleat as it takes away the feeling of a fairground lassoing competition. Drop it when hooked as its tied to the loop.

I then nip ashore taking the prepared bow or stern line, attach and then get the other. Helped enormously by a lifeline gate and low freeboard. The boat stops on the midships line and either bow or stern start to swing out depending on wind and current.

Am I alone in feeling uncomfortable to leave the engine in gear (and helm locked) when going ashore to secure the bow/stern? There is considerable power in my 60hp even at tick over in gear. 10 tonnes can be pulled slowly into place but much harder to fight an engine if something is not set up right.

As has been said before, there are some manoeuvers I would not undertake either due to being singlehanded or because I know the limitations of the boat (and me!).

Anchoring is far more relaxing, especially with an anchor alarm.
 

fredrussell

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The getting alongside business:

This relates to 50ft+ boats.

You must obviously have a midships cleat, and you must obviously step onto the pontoon warp in hand and belay that line very quickly.
My boat is a fraction the size of yours but even on mine I’d be reluctant to step onto pontoon until at least one line is made fast. Are you saying that you step onto pontoon with a line in hand before any other line has been made fast? If things go tits up I’d rather be on the boat than on the pontoon watching the unmanned boat going off on its merry way.
 

Daydream believer

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Anchoring is far more relaxing, especially with an anchor alarm.
I cannot anchor for long, due to sea sickness. Plus I only carry light mooring gear for emergency & do not have an anchor winch. That means a rope rode( I rig a tripping line to take the weight of the anchor & some chain) back to the cockpit.
However, in reply to your point I would find getting in the dinghy & rowing ashore & getting out of it again far more risky than a simple pontoon mooring procedure . I find it quite difficult getting out of my Avon when getting to the beach at Stone. Getting in & out of my launch from my Avon in any chop always makes me nervous. My Squib needs a special technique, which normally ends up with me upside down in the cockpit, to the amusement of the crew. I have great difficulty stepping up onto the deck of the club committee boat, so normally insist they take me to it in the RIB, as it is higher.
But then I only have a 31 ft yacht. to get into a finger berth. I doubt that I would have any hassle with any modern fin keel boat up to 39 ft though. Most are very easy to position against a berth & that would be one of the buying points, if I was looking for another.- Which I am not ( at the minute anyway- but one never knows)
 

dunedin

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The getting alongside business:

This relates to 50ft+ boats.

You must obviously have a midships cleat, and you must obviously step onto the pontoon warp in hand and belay that line very quickly.

As Pyrojames said much earlier in this thread the single hander must be able to get from wheel and throttle to amidships very fast indeed. I can just about do this, on my boat, because the helmsman’s cockpit is higher than the gorilla pit, but if I had to get past the wheel and climb up the very deep cockpit sides I would not have a chance.

Now, having got ashore with your one line the boat is not going to just sit quietly - you need to get control of the ends.

That means that as part of the going alongside preparations with fenders, etc. , you should take a line from bow and stern outside everything and make them off where you can get to them from the jetty or pontoon. On the midships cleat, in fact, because by definition that is going to be the spot on your boat that you are most likely to be able to reach from the jetty.
Each to their own approach, but when solo I would think it is safer not to step off a sizeable boat onto the pontoon until AFTER the boat is secured. Big risk that the boat will blow out and be too heavy to hold. Or one time you will discover that you didn't put the engine lever fully back into neutral, and is still in reverse and pulling back away from you - seen that on too many occasions!
Best perhaps if possible to be prepared to drop a pre-prepared loop onto a cleat as pass - I tend to have this brought back from the mid cleat of the boat to the genoa winch. So if all goes well, frop rope on cleat, take up slack on genoa winch, into forward gear and boat pinned in. When doesn't go well, still at the controls, get rope clear of water and execute plan B (eg out and back in again?)
 

Concerto

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The bigger the boat, the more precise your positioning and speed when berthing. A supertanker berths at under ¼ of a knot and does not rely on the warps to stop it. To frequently I see people who approach a berth and expect to use reverse as a brake and bow thruster to correct the handing of the resultant propeller wash turning the boat.

My idea has always been to glide slowly into a berth and position Concerto precisely, normally I never use reverse. Using sight lines like other masts to check for wind drift and tidal push. Having warps ready to secure is very important, as is plenty of fenders on both side of your boat. I know I have said this before, but having 2 bow line and 2 springs is supposed to be the correct way to berth but I disagree, but having a midship cleat is essential. To make my singlehanded berthing easier (provided there are cleats to secure to on the finger or pontoon), I use one line that is 3 times the overall length and marked in the middle. It is even coiled in two parts for easy handling. The middle marker is set a few feet in front of the midship cleat and cleated. Each end is then secured at the bow and stern, so you now have 2 loops, each being the spring and breast rope. So, when I step off the boat from the side gate, it is very close to the finger or alongside pontoon. Depending on what is happening to the direction of the boat due to wind or tide, I take one loop to secure the spring and the balance can be immediately used as a breast rope. Then I grab the other loop at midships and walk to secure the other spring and breast rope. It takes under a minute to cleat all of them and the boat moves very little. Now if it is no in exactly the right place, you can adjust the lines and gently move the boat where you want it.

The only rider I will add is I keep a spare line to hand if I need to use one to throw a line (and I can throw long and accurate). This system does not work on short fingers with only a loop at the end. For this I use a line with a small folding anchor that is dropped closed through the loop and opens when jerked. Being prepared is always so important. If you are unhappy with an allocated berth, then ask the marina for assistance. I have done this on many occassions and then found they were not needed. They are always happy to help, rather than sort out damage to another vessel.

Concerto only weighs 5½ tons laden and is far lighter than many larger boats, but I have used this method of mooring for over 40 years and on boats up to 45ft. It sounds strange to most people, but once you have tried it, you will realise how good it works. If you want to try it, join the ends of your breast and spring ropes to form a loop and give it a try with a full crew if necesary.
 

lustyd

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To frequently I see people who approach a berth and expect to use reverse as a brake
On some boats, that's the correct procedure. Many modern boats would drift sideways way before you got to your berth if you didn't have some way on, and so the reverse is required. Prop walk is a useful feature when you're comfortable with it, as are bow thrusters. Don't assume all boats work the same way yours does, especially when half a century of change has taken place in design!
 

Concerto

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On some boats, that's the correct procedure. Many modern boats would drift sideways way before you got to your berth if you didn't have some way on, and so the reverse is required. Prop walk is a useful feature when you're comfortable with it, as are bow thrusters. Don't assume all boats work the same way yours does, especially when half a century of change has taken place in design!
So, modern designs are better then? Sounds more like a design fault. Sorry I disagree that you need lots of speed to control modern boats. Across the pontoon from Concerto are 3 sailing school boats, all less than a decade old, and they are in and out of the berths regularly, frequently with a student at the helm. Coming in they generally glide in with minimal reverse. It takes practice and can be done, but watching the sight lines for drift is so imortant so corrections can be made to your course. Using too much speed causes greater momentum and that in itself causes even bigger problems.

In the past I had a small very light weight racing yacht, the first with Kevlar in the layup, and even that one could glide and turn on a sixpence, despite only having an outbaord. Frequently we just sailed alongside rather than get the outboard out. It is possible to handle crosswind.

Have you ever sailed alongside a pontoon or another boat? I remember once being in the main canal leading to Amsterdam when we ran out of fuel, so we started sailing again and had to sail alongside a barge to get some fuel. We were complimented at how gently we came alongside.
 

lustyd

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So, modern designs are better then?
Nobody said that. I said different boats are different. You're telling everyone your berthing method is perfect but without the caveat that your method works on your boat and may not work on others. I never said modern boats need lots of speed, mine needs enough that it would hit the pontoon without some astern though, and that's even assuming there's only light winds and no tide. With tide or stronger wind it needs a little more speed and a little more engine. That's not a lack of skill, it's just what the boat needs.

Yes I have sailed alongside walls and pontoons as well as buoys and anchoring under sail and motor. I've done this in all kinds of vessels too including a carbon race yacht, small and large, old and new, and occasionally after engine failure on charter boats. That's why I understand that different boats need different techniques. I've also been complimented in a back hand kind of way, when doing a 180 then drifting up to the pontoon as I rolled away the genoa on my old boat. It was only when I explained that the engine had failed they realised I wasn't showing off. Again though, what worked on that boat doesn't work on my new boat, and it sure as hell doesn't work on a motor boat with 2' draft and a huge wheelhouse in the wind!
 

lustyd

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Also worth saying that with boats, sometimes practice doesn't make perfect, it makes damage and repair bills. If the boat doesn't handle a certain way then repeatedly bashing into your neighbors and the pontoon won't change that no matter how many times you ignore it and try.
 
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