The next few blog posts are going to be written by on of our instructors, Ken Jensen. He will be doing a series on docking, something that everyone can always learn and practice more.

Ken has been teaching with VSS since 2004.  A native of Minnesota (The Land of 10,000 Lakes!), Ken moved to Colorado in 1995, and took his first class with VSS in 2002.  Back in Minnesota, Ken and his dad sailed little dinghies like Sunfish and Sailfish, as well as Hobie cats back when they were the cool new thing.  Nowadays Ken teaches most of the VSS classes, but particularly enjoys teaching Docking on the J/30 at Chatfield, where you will find him on most Saturdays.

If you’re like me, you love sailing, you love sailboats, and want to develop the skills of sailing.  And one of the most important skills in sailing is docking.  I am one of the instructors at Victoria Sailing School, and I teach the docking class on the J/30 at Chatfield.


This is the first in a series of blog posts I will be writing on docking.  Most of the points covered in these posts will apply to almost any boat, with a few specific pointers on the two models of boat in Victoria Sailing School’s fleet, the J/22 and the J/30.

In this blog post, I will be discussing the very basics.  Future posts will cover specific situations.

My philosophy on docking is really an extension of our philosophy on sailing in general: good docking is 95% preparation and 5% execution.  In this blog post I will discuss the ways to prepare for a successful docking.

First of all, we assume that you have the basics for any sailing excursion- hat, sunscreen, water, etc.  For docking we also recommend having a clipboard with a blank paper, a marker or pen, and ideally a chart of the marina.

Next, before the motor is even started, it is a good idea to have a strong grasp of the following skills.  In no particular order:

One skill we emphasize is the ability to make a simple micro-plan and communicating it clearly.   By micro-plan we mean something that might be as simple a plan to just get the boat out of the slip and into the channel, or a plan to spring the bow off the dock.  Creating and communicating these simple plans can greatly cut down on the chaos.

A related skill is the ability to create positions or roles, and assign people to them.  For instance, in docking the J/30, we typically have someone at the helm, two people on the dock handling mooring lines, and one person acting as the dangler, dangling a fender on the starboard side, protecting the hull from the dock.

Another skill is simply how to hold a boat at the dock.  We recommend two wraps of the mooring line around the cleat, setting up to tie a cleat hitch.  (And by the way, being able to tie a proper cleat hitch is one of THE cornerstone skills of sailing.  Walk up and down the docks, properly tied cleat hitches are very rare.)

The ability to toss a line a line can be handy.  And there is a technique for this.  Make sure the end of the line is secured, and a knot in the end being tossed makes it easier for the recipient.  Then coil the line, and split the coils into each hand.  Toss the coils in your primary hand first, followed quickly by the coils in your weak hand.  If you do this right the first time. You don’t have to toss a line that has fallen in the water.  Your friends and family will appreciate this!


More docking posts coming soon!
Victoria Sailing School *** 1776 S. Jackson Street, Suite 116 *** Denver *** Colorado *** 80210 *** 303.697.7433 - (8:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. please)