Wednesday, December 5, 2007


As you would before docking, get out on the wing and feel the wind, check its direction by looking up at the stack gases, and look over the side to check the current. No matter how many instruments you might have to supply such information, it's still important that you use your own senses and get a feel for existing conditions before planning this or any other maneuver.

Too often the less experienced ship handler looks at undocking as a relatively simple operation and does not properly plan the evo­lution. The ship is usually undocking stern first from a berth, so she steers poorly if at all. Since she is starting from alongside, the ship ­handler has fewer options available that make use of the wind and current as the ship begins backing from the berth. During a docking, wind and current are felt when the stern is in clear water and the angle of approach can be adjusted to make use of these forces. This is not the case when undocking.

Even the most careful plans may have to be altered after the lines are let go since it is difficult to determine which of several conflicting forces will most affect the ship leaving the berth. Often the ship handler lets go expecting to be set off the pier by wind, only to remain hard alongside due to subsurface current. If this occurs, take time to replan the undocking before touching the telegraph. The ship isn't going anywhere more accidents occur because of inappropriate action than de­layed action.