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Invention is only a finger away

Yes, that title struck me as slightly off-putting, as well. But docking, as seen in the video above, is all about on-putting, or at least putting the boat safely on the dock. Step one is stopping, or slowing enough to get a line around a bollard. Luc Cote, who with his wife Tina has the slip at my marina that is kitty-corner to mine, has done exactly that. He's invented a simple device to make docking safer (you stay aboard instead of jumping off with a line) and more certain (you can give yourself plenty of slack to secure the line).

The low blue boat in the top center of the establishing shot is Valiente.  Such is fame.

Luc and Tina live aboard an Irwin 37 (which is for sale if you are interested). Luc runs a water taxi service from the marina and has had a lot of time and muscle memory to dedicate to the issue of better, safer docking. The "Dock Wand" is made to accomplish that. I saw them at the recent Toronto Boat Show and they had made a hundred to sell, but had in fact sold 500. The Dock Wand would appear to be a hit.

Not much more than a length of line, a plastic pole and a brightly coloured ball, the Dock Wand is, like most good ideas, so simple and straightforward, one feels slightly moronic even contemplating the long list of reasons one didn't invent it years back. In my own defence, Valiente has quite a low freeboard and my wife usually jumps off with a hook in one hand and a breast line in the other. Alchemy, by contrast, is both four times or better the mass and even at midships calls for a bit of a hop to reach the level of the dock.

So I might have to wander over to get one myself. The videos are pretty self-explanatory. One spliced end of a longish line goes to a cleat (ideally centered or forward). The other end goes to a ball used to lasso the aft cleat on a dock. That accomplished, you can drop the thing in the water: You are "on" enough to either stop in calm weather, or to give you time enough to jump off with more lines to finish securing.

I can see this as being a big help for big sail boats, power boats and single-handers of all types. I wish them well and I hope my readers find it a clever and useful tool.


John at NYC said...

When I went to the boat show, I was surprised to see quite a few people wandering around with what appeared to be, from a distance, a tennis ball at the end of a pole.

I looked into it, it seems it's a clever system, especially for me as I'm often single handling.

I'll pop over to Genco or Mason's to take a closer look.

Rhys said...

John, if you make it Genco on a Saturday, you can say hello to my wife!

While you could make one yourself, and perhaps cheaper, theirs is pretty well-done.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a one trick pony this invention is. First of all it relies on the ability of plastic ball to jam underneath a cleat or bollard with a properly sized gap. The little spacer they want to sell you is testament to that flaw. At best this will only work on your home dock or one like it. Judging whether the cleat is properly sized when approaching a strange dock when there isn't a lot of time to change your mind is a little dicey IMHO.

We agree with the premise of stopping with a spring line or a breast line. What we did for many years was have a spring line with a generous loop on the end. You could drop it on with a boat hook or play cowboy and drop/throw it on. Then slowly power up against it and maintain position while leisurely tying the other dock lines. No gimmicks required.

Besides, Marc, once you get out of the Great Lakes, the odds of you finding a side-tie dock starts decreasing, except at fuel docks! And this toy won't help you to catch pilings (very common in the U.S. tidal areas) or floats on a med-style mooring.

Trusting the bulk of Alchemy to a little piece of plastic just seems sooo wrong. The plastic may deform. But hey, put a flashlight on the end of it while you are at it. It's a gimmick for those who don't get away from their home dock a lot, but I'd rather spend the money on a decent case of beer.

Rhys said...

Please note that I thought this device would help some sailors, not necessarily myself and not necessarily in the "big boat" scenario. It's not, after all, the only dock aid device out there, but it has an interesting approach..snag and drop...that I can see would be a help in marina/YC situations.

I favour the breast line tactic fairly explicitly, having made and installed robust midship cleats on cambered teak bases (to clear the toerail and to spread the load), but I can still see that this device, or in Alchemy's case perhaps a riff on it, would mean a certain height-challenged Admiral would not have to do a three-foot drop onto a heaving dock.

I can also see experienced but no longer quite so nimble sailors using this to avoid a step-off that may exceed balance and bone density.

I also favour the "spring with big loop" idea. I have explained elsewhere that I've used a light lashing of tape on a boat hook to get a loop over a dock bollard, which also works.

Oh, so cynical, Anonymous (though I think I recognize the writing style!). The Dock Wand is a simple thing, it's true, but by the reactions, (see it's useful to some, and surely worth discussing.

Anonymous said...

The preceding anonymity of the comment was an oversight by crew of Silverheels III. We still feel that reliance on gimmicks like this instead of developing and practicing proper and safe line handling techniques will compromise your safety. Jumping out on narrow and possibly slippery docks in a blow should not be necessary. That single large looped brest or spring line with opposing rudder and a little throttle will stop the boat safely and give you plenty of time to alight (not jump) safely onto the dock to secure the bow, then stern. If it's a question of requiring strength, size and balance to secure your boat, then let the lighter crew member take the helm in this case. Down the line it'll require you to secure to large wooden pilings rather than finger docks; where your acquired skills with line handling will keep you, your crew and the boat safe.

Folks in marinas and older sailors will be safer without gimmicks such as this, rather with skills developed by practice.

Ken & Lynn SH3

Rhys said...

Well, Ken, of course I would concur with you. My plastic boat still bears the scars of me learning how to dock properly. I now consider myself competent at it. And I agree your technique is sound. Actually, several techniques are sound. Everyone seems to have a variation. I heard two more at Genco today.

And it may be a gimmick, but it may also be training wheels. I'm not the marketing guy for these guys, just the guy across the finger from them. I guess if they stay in business, some need, in some respect, is being filled.