It’s probably going to happen sooner or later. Just when you’re heading for a slip, or a fuel dock, your engine dies. Yikes. Here is some great advice from Captain John’s Skipper Tips about what to do next:
Imagine that you enter a marina channel after a perfect day. All of a sudden – your engine sputters, shudders and dies! You press the starter button. Nothing doing! And there’s no room to anchor and no room to turn around. What now, skipper?
You can bet that the best airplane pilots are always on the lookout for landing strips off the planned route. If they get into trouble, they may need to set her down. You can use this same strategy anytime you enter a marina, narrow channel, or waterway.
Look for an empty dock or slip space to slide into. Do this every time you enter or exit a marina – including your own home marina. Things seem to go wrong when we get too complacent. I’ve been there more than once.
Which brings me to the next point…
Prepare both sides of your boat for defensive docking – not just the intended docking side. In an emergency, you will not know which side you will need to dock on. So, put out an extra fender or two and an extra line or two on the other side – just in case.
In close quarters maneuvers, stationary boats do less harm than boats with way on (speed or momentum). So, your main priority will be to get a line looped around a pier cleat or piling as soon as possible. Nothing fancy. But get the boat stopped.
If you have lots of docking space, you might want to use a stern line to stop the forward momentum of your boat. Expect this line to come under lots of strain, so warn your crew to stand clear. Get another docking line over as soon as you can to hold her alongside.
If you have limited docking space, use a short spring line fed from a beam cleat or fitting to a pier cleat or pier piling. Again, take care to keep hands and arms clear as the line comes under tension. Get over other docking lines as soon as possible.