The ups and downs of docking
Following our third ever sail of Meriwether, and nailing the docking that day, our confidence the following weekend was high enough to attempt a late afternoon sail with an evening anchoring to watch the sun set while on the water. With the boat packed up and our checklist complete, we pulled out of our slip and started motoring out of the marina. Things can be very different outside the break walls of a marina where the winds are free to do their own thing, like wild horses running the plains of the West.
What seemed like a fairly calm day while protected in the marina was forecast to be a little more of a bucking bronco by late evening. Nearing small craft advisory territory in fact. So, just after clearing the marina we began to doubt our plan – specifically how difficult it would be to dock in those winds, in the dark. We ended up deciding to back out of the whole day and turned Meriwether around to park her back in our sheltered slip before things got too hairy. The wind was coming in at 15 knots again, but this time from behind us as we approach our slip – completely opposite to what we had experienced the last two weeks. I tried to put my aging brain cells to work to formulate a plan on how to get our boat onto the dock and tied up without a ton of drama, but alas the drama returned although at a smaller scale.
Meriwether has a full keel, so she is not the most agile boat. The 90 degree turn into our parking space here in Bellingham is directly after a concrete dock and pillar – something I do not care to hit with any real force – so I take it a bit easy coming in. Maybe too easy. The timid speeds gave the tail wind time to push us just past our slip. I almost had it too. Kerri was so close to being able to safely step off and tie us up, but we talked last week and decided never to hop/jump off the boat to a dock – just way too risky. So yea… we missed, and now – broadside – the wind continued pushing us further away. Luckily, our neighboring boat was out for the weekend (which gave me the opportunity to take her full profile picture above) so we would just drift into his slip and up against that dock. But the lack of maneuverability thanks to our full keel and the wind meant we could not get Meriwether slid over into the slip we pay for… quite embarrassing.
Once again, passerby neighbors came to our rescue, grabbing some lines and walking our bow over where it should be, then wrestled the stern over as well. More thanks, hand shakes, and all around laughter as they too understood the issues of docking in a stiff breeze. Over the course of the next hour, with the help of a bit of hindsight, Kerri and I would piece together a plan to tackle those very conditions when they arise in the future. But, for now we are still on the “first time sloppies” when the weather throws us a twist.
By evening, just before sunset, the wind would die off to nearly nothing, proving once again that a forecast is about as useful as a straw in the desert.