Using an aft spring line to help with docking takes a little practice. First you will need to go alongside a dock a few times to find your boat’s pivot point. This is where the aft spring line should be attached but allowed to ease out using a snatch block or something similar. Properly placed along the rail, when coming alongside a dock, with the helm turned just a fraction away from the dock, the engine in idle forward, the boat will walk gently parallel to the dock!
On my boat, I attach the aft spring to a cockpit winch, then lead it through a soft Dyneema cleat on the perforated toe rail on the aft quarter (a snatch block would also work), about where my rudderpost is located. (See the photo)
Here are the few simple steps to using an aft spring:
• Check the wind and current, and try always to come alongside a dock up-current or up-wind.
• Have all your dock lines attached to the boat on the bow and stern coiled and ready to throw.
• Have your fenders tied on to your boat, and ready to put overboard as you approach the dock.
• Both ends of the line should be led back to your cockpit if singlehanded: The coiled loop end to toss ashore, and the adjustment end around a cockpit winch.
• If there is a crew member, the loop end can be thrown from amidships but must be secured aft of the boat on the dock.
• If you toss to a person on the dock, be sure to let them know to take the spring line aft — not forward — to secure it to the dock! This is very important!
• Once the loop is secure ashore take up on the aft spring using a winch near your helm as you ease your boat into a slow forward speed turning your helm just a bit away from the dock.
Even if your boat is a few feet, or many feet, away from the dock, if the aft spring is attached to the boat’s pivot point, as soon as you take up the slack from the dock your boat will inch its way alongside as if you had a side thruster.
I keep the end of the aft spring led in the cockpit near the helm. I can steer and securely adjust the aft spring around a winch after I have tossed the loop end ashore and it is secured on the dock. Your boat will remain steady alongside the dock as long as you have her in idle forward and the helm turned just a bit away from the dock and locked into place.
Your boat will not move, it will stay right there alongside the dock while you slowly without hurry or fuss get your bow and stern lines and forward spring line secured. It is wonderful, no matter what the current, wind or crew situation is. Try it, it works, and let me know how this little trick changes your ability and attitude when coming alongside a dock!
Read more tips from Pam Wall on her blog at www.pamwall.com.