April 2015 Refresher

Boating Refresher on Thurmond Lake
-contributed by P/C SEO Chuck Gresham, JN

The weather has finally warmed up and most of us will resume our boating activities as soon as the pine pollen flies and we clean the pollen from the boat or its covering. Most beginning boaters can safely cruise down the middle of Little River or the main lake; however, the ability of the boat captain becomes obvious when docking, beaching or rafting up. These are also the occasions where we can cause significant boat damage. So let us review a few basic points about each of these operations.

Docking is probably the most difficult maneuver because (hopefully) we are operating at slow speed, thus have less control. Current is not an issue on Thurmond Lake, and wind is generally not a problem because our docks are in sheltered coves. Thus, leaving a dock or slip simply involves informing all aboard of what you are going to do, starting the engine, releasing the lines and backing out of the slip or pulling away from the dock at a shallow angle. If you are pulling away from a dock between two other boats, or if there is a wind pushing you against the dock, then attach a spring line from a bow cleat to a dock cleat near the center of your boat, put the motor in forward, turn hard to the port, and allow the stern to move well away from the dock. Then, retrieve the springline (it should be looped over the dock cleat, not secured), put the motor in reverse and back well away from the dock and into the wind. When safely away from the dock, motor away in forward.

Remember, when approaching a dock; don’t go any faster than you want to hit the dock. If there are no other boats on the dock, approach the dock slowly at a shallow angle, put the motor in reverse to stop at the desired docking location, put the motor in neutral, then secure a bow and stern line. Once you are secured to the dock, turn off the engine. If there are other boats at the dock or if there is a wind pushing you away from the dock, use a spring line.

We will beach our boats several times during the Poker Run and when we are enjoying a day on the lake. To avoid damage to the hull, select a spot with a sandy beach, as opposed to a rocky shore and contact the beach slowly. This will allow the boat to come to a gentle stop and not throw anyone out of their seats. Also a gentle ‘landing’ makes leaving the beach much easier, as opposed to running the boat up on the beach. Once ashore, secure the boat with a bowline made fast to a tree or rock, or set the anchor on the beach. Many people carry a small stepstool to make getting on and off the boat easier and safer. To leave, have the crew in the stern to raise the bow, and if the motor is in deep enough water, slowly back away. If the water is shallow, raise the motor, have the crew in the stern, and push off with a paddle, boat hook or pole. I carry a 15’ bamboo pole on the pontoon to push off in shallow water.

Rafting up is also a great place to embarrass yourself in front of your friends. When you approach a raftup, slowly approach an end boat from its stern with your fenders deployed and lines ready. Pull parallel to the end boat, stop your boat with a little power in reverse, and then toss out your lines. Once secured, turn off your engine and enjoy the day. Likewise when leaving a raftup, the end boats leave first, backing away if they can, to avoid hitting anchor rodes deployed from the bow of other boats. Again operate as slowly as possible but fast enough to maintain steering.