Ride Em Cowboy
We've all spent those evenings at the dock or at anchor, when the weather, the wind and water, conspire to slam the boat in a whole host of interesting directions. The lines creak and then slam tight. The boat rebounds and bounces off the fenders. Wind howls through the rigging. It does NOT, you may remember, make for a peaceful, sleep filled night.
These happen occasionally to all of us, but of late, they've almost been more the rule than the exception here on the Chesapeake. I've looked over our logs for the last eight months or so and I'm hard pressed to find a single freaking week where there wasn't at the very least a small craft warning, and the number of Gale warnings has been truly epic.
Why is this? We've been at the same dockage for eight years now, and have seen the weather become steadily warmer, more erratic, and occasionally more violent. And, yes, it's climate change and yes, for all our denials, it's global warming. There's just too damn much heat energy in the weather systems and it's not going away any time soon. In fact, it's likely to get more pronounced and more in your face. Bearing all that in mind, I thought I'd do a bit of a review of how we deal with weather here at dock.
Here's the thing, every boater spends quite a bit of time tweaking the dock lines until they're just right, until the boat will ride true under most if not all conditions of tide, wind, and weather. Once we get them adjusted, most of us are loath to mess with them again. The trouble is, of course, that no tying of dock lines, however well conceived and executed, will ever do for every conceivable condition.
There are, of course, a few things you can do to make the lines more forgiving. Snubbers of various sorts can really help soften the blow when the boat suddenly hits the end of her tether, and banked fenders can help allow for wide tidal variations. Criss-crossing the lines at stern and bow will help keep the boat centered in the slip (though it can make exiting off the swim platform a bit of an adventure) regardless of tide conditions.
Ultimately, though, we have to get over the idea that there is a one-tie-fits-all solution for you and your boat. This will, of course, inevitably mean that there will be those inventive, leisurely, 3AM its-pouring-rain-and-we're-hitting-the-dock lurches on deck in your skivvies out of a sound sleep evenings.
So how to make that less than awful?
First things first. Find out—now--which lines are the most likely to need emergency alteration when the tides and the wind cease to play nice. It's likely that it'll be the same damn cleat you're addressing every time, so plan on that. Tape marks or loops tied in that line can help you let the line out or pull it in a predictable amount, regardless of the foul conditions, which can save you another trip. Putting in an additional spring line that can be easily manipulated from the cockpit is also helpful and can keep you from having to do a full-scale remake of how your vessel is moored.
Also, just for safety's sake, remember that these scenarios and a bunch of others may entail you charging onto a dark deck in the middle of the night in foul weather. The wise expedient of having decent deck shoes, rain gear, a working light, and a marlinspike easily available in a place that you'll remember without having to search for them can save you a lot of cursing, and, possibly, danger.
So, yes, the weather is getting worse, it's not your imagination, and, yes, we're all going to have to deal with it. Take some decent precautions and you'll find you'll sleep a lot better.
Don and Gail Elwell
And first Cat Magellan
aboard the MV TARDIS