I was “hot under the collar”–burning hot–to say the least! But argument was not an option. After all, he was the Captain. Four feet! Just four lousy feet before the current took control to push us further off the wharf. But I soon realized just how “spot on” our Captain was in his requirement that his ship-handlers practice this “life or death” docking technique.
Docking a sixty-five-foot tug with a ninety-foot barge loaded with a heavy crane and pilings was a challenge, to say the least. Even with her twin engines. twin screws and rudders. Our berth in the small seaport town of Mayport, Florida was frequented by strong current and variable winds. So docking a vessel of any size required lots of finesse in tough conditions.
And this new skipper demanded one single thing that–although at first frustrated me–became my mantra for the decades of teaching that followed. He required much more than excellence in ship handling.
He required that you stop the ship–with no way on (forward or aft momentum) alongside the pier to allow the crew to step onto the pier, wharf, or seawall to tie her up. Note the primary word here. The single word that will prevent injury or fatality to your crew, my crew, and anyone else’s crew–no matter the size of boat or ship. That word?