It takes 25 times doing something new before it becomes habit (or, so I've been told by very smart people). Such is scary when I apply this principle to docking a boat (25 times!?!). When the time approaches to bring our boat into a slip, my heart begins to race, my palms sweat, and I feel like crying. Docking is one area of liveaboard life that definitely makes me feel like a fraud. Living only at the dock is no fun, so docking inevitable. And, it's something I need to practice... often.
This past weekend we took our boat out for the first time since bringing her home in November.
We had a battery charger that needed installing, and a marina across the river has a reputation for excellent maintenance. We chose a sunny, 50-degree day and enjoyed our time motoring over. We viewed the birds, the huge houses on the shore, time with one another; then, the pilings began to appear. First, the red and green guideposts into the channel, and then those at the marina from which flags waved to us, calling us in (and taunting me a bit).
Wind blew and gusted in from the northwest, which would end up being our port side when we would be bringing our boat into the slip. Gusts of wind are tricky, as they push the boat in the direction of how the wind is moving; usually, directly into pilings, or another boat. My patient husband instructed me on my job, which was to lasso one line over top of the center piling to our port side. This would prevent our boat from being pushed, by the wind, into the finger pier to our starboard side. Having that center line would keep the boat steady and we could easily secure the additional lines.
On our first attempt, the docking was easy. I successfully quickly secured the line (yay) and then sadly we realized that the slip wasn't long enough for our 36 foot boat. That's okay, we reversed and chose a second slip. Again, (was I suddenly a docking goddess?) I easily slipped the line over my target piling. Yet, we weren't incredibly sure about the width and length of the slip, so reversed out we did again. No problem, though (I was thinking), two times means I'm getting this and I could do it over and over again.
We tightly held on to the lines that we could secure, took a few minutes to calm, and then redirected our plan. I honestly looked at my husband for his guidance as I was clueless (and a bit spooked). We were able to get the boat right (and, I do not remember now what we did!), we then backed out of the slip, and we talked about what had gone wrong and made a new plan. The fourth docking attempt proved to be successful and after adjusting the lines, a huge wash of relief and pride washed over me (along with a light stinging on my palms because of pulling on lines so tightly for so long).
Our group of liveaboard friends say, Docking Happens. When I began sailing with my husband, he always said that you can tell a lot about a couple by how they communicate when docking their boat. This is probably why in the beginning of our sailing days, he many times told me to relax and sit down while he did everything (to cause awe on the onlookers on the pier). Over time, we've learned how to communicate, and I really owe that to my husband who is incredibly patient, level-headed, and calm in the midst of chaos. Maybe it's his seventh-grade teaching experience, or that he's just a really good captain and person. It's likely a mix of both.
A big accomplishment for me on this trip was staying calm, paying attention, and not only focusing on my one job but what was happening elsewhere on the boat. I watched what was going on around me and made quick decisions. My husband once told me that my greatest skill is how I consider and think; but, he said, it's also my biggest downfall. With the boat, he's said that I will take time to think instead of just doing - even though I know what to do I second-guess myself and then the time lost allows bad things to happen. This time, I acted and through acting, gained some confidence which will surely aid me in many docking experiences to come.