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The Virtual Spring Line

Ever tied up to a dock only to find yourself pinned by the wind when it's time to leave? Unless you're in a 20 footer, forget pushing the boat off with muscle power alone... it's just not going to happen and can be even dangerous.

In a twin engine boat, the solution is easy and painless : use the dockside engine as a virtual spring line to pivot off the dock.

If your dock has wooden pilings, you really don't have much to worry about as long as you move the boat up or down a little so that the pilings don't catch your anchor or bow pulpit. If the dock doesn't have any pilings you need to protect the hull to cushion it where it will pivot against the dock. Usually, a pair of large fenders (round balls work better in this case) are all you need; just make sure you hang them and the right height and close to the bow where contact will occur.

Once your lines are undone, put the rudders hard over towards the dock, the dockside engine in reverse and the off side engine in forward. Ex... if docked to starboard, turn the wheel to starboard, put the starboard engine in reverse and port in forward. That's it ! the boat will pivot its stern away from the dock even against a strong breeze. Depending on the boat and the wind, you may need to increase RPM a little bit and you may also need to adjust RPM to keep the boat from creeping forward or backward.

Once you're at an angle sufficient to back out without giving a heart attack to the captain of the boat behind you, just put the offside engine in reverse too and back away while straightening out your rudders.

The above should also work with twin sterndrive or twin outboard boats although they generally do not pivot as well as inboards forcing you to use a real spring line when the wind picks up.

If you are running a single engine boat, then obviously you don't have the luxury of putting one engine in reverse you have to use a real spring line to get out of the tight spot.