How To Dock a Cruising Catamaran
Given their large size and multiple hulls, it would seem that a mono hull yacht would be easier to dock than catamarans. Believe it or not, catamarans are actually on average much easier to dock as their dual propellers give the unique ability to pivot on a point and rotate in a circle equal to the cat’s diagonal length. To dock a catamaran you must take several things into consideration, including:
- The Size and Type of your catamaran- The first thing you must always take into account is the size and type of your boat. The height and weight of your vessel can greatly affect maneuverability and the effect that current or wind may have on its movement. likewise, the number of hulls, number and type of motors you have, and even the materials your boat are made of can greatly affect how it can move.
- Current and Wind– Determine which direction the wind and current will move your boat naturally and compensate accordingly. Try to determine which is stronger and in which direction your boat may be pulled, towards or away from the dock.
- Type of Dock– Is the dock you’re approaching floating or fixed? If your dock is fixed, you may have to shorten or lengthen your lines to accommodate for a difference in height. If your dock is floating or you are on a fixed dock with tides and you are tied up too tight, it can be big trouble. Always accommodate for the type and height of the dock you’re approaching to avoid damaging your boat.
Docking Your Catamaran
As you approach the dock, douse your sails if you haven’t yet. You shouldn’t usually approach a dock much faster than 2 knots so engines at low speed are ideal, as rudders will not do much at that speed. Lock your wheel to a zero angle and center your rudders, as you will be maneuvering mostly with the engines at this point.
Make sure your lines are all ready to be thrown onto the dock. Docking on the side of your steering station is usually easier, especially if you are alone on your boat or have a particularly large catamaran. This makes it easier to judge distance as well as run up and down the boat to throw your lines onto the dock.
Once you find a good spot and take into account your current, wind speed and windage, run your engines and drive your cat to line up parallel with the dock. Push one throttle in forward and one in reverse to rotate your cat on a pivot point. Be careful to judge distance between your catamaran and other boats or docks here- taking the drift of wind and current into account, you will still rotate in a circle with a diameter of your diagonal length.
Pivot your catamaran to position your stern quarter towards the dock. Once you are close enough, throw your line and loop it over the dock cleat to get as close as possible. Then, loop it again and quickly tie off the bitter end on your own boat’s cleat.
Walk back to the helm station and put your port engine in reverse, and starboard forward. This will rotate your hull portside towards the dock. The leverage torque and rotational movement will overcome the windage and bring the nose of the boat towards the dock. Now, walk back to the helm station, put your engines in neutral, and loop your spring lines to dock cleats.
Of course above is only one example of many different scenarious and only practice will make you confident. While it may seem daunting at first to dock a catamaran given their size, they actually tend to be easier with dual engines than many monohull boats. If you want to learn more about cruising catamarans, there are many books written on sailing and owning catamarans, including one written by Aeroyacht owner Gregor Tarjan.