Consider the Larry Line

After we moved our boat to a new dock in our marina, we had problems getting under way. The docks on either side of us were much higher than those we were used to, and, because of the foot traffic on them, we couldn’t just put our relatively heavy lines on the dock and leave; we had to coil them and carefully place them on the dock before we could start backing out of our slip. Experimenting to find a way to do this in a seamanlike way was frustrating (1).

Then one day we saw Larry, our neighbor. singlehand his 40-footer out of the dock space next to us with no problems. His technique was so simple I wondered why I had not thought of it myself or at least seen it used before. Larry’s secret weapon is a light line he has permanently attached to his finger pier at a spot directly opposite his amidships mooring cleat. When he wants to leave, he pulls the line in (I now call it a “Larry line”), makes it tight, and then cleats it. With the boat secured in this fashion, he can leisurely remove his dock lines, coil them carefully, and put them on the dock (2). Satisfied that all is ready, he releases the Larry line, walks quickly aft to the helm, and is on his way.

With two of us on our boat, we start by pulling in our Larry line and then releasing the other dock lines. After we have coiled and placed them on the dock, my wife, Jane, unties the Larry line but continues to keep it under light tension while I put the engine in reverse. As we back out of the space, she uses the Larry line to help control the bow, walks forward as the boat goes aft, and finally places our Larry line on the pier. At this point we are moving astern under full control (3).

When we return to our slip after a day on the water, I steer the boat against our finger pier and make sure (even if the wind is blowing us off) that she can grab the Larry line; then I maneuver so she can secure it when the cleat on the dock is amidships. At that point we retrieve our dock lines and adjust them at our leisure.

The dock, of course, must be sailboat friendly, preferably with posts that can hold the boat off without having the curve of the hull touch the dock or padding on the edge of the dock. The boat may want to pivot in certain conditions if it’s being restrained by only a Larry line, so I have a few smaller lines ready to hold the boat in place fore and aft while I retrieve and set up my bigger lines. Thanks, Larry. Rod Glover

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