Docking in the Wind – A Full Contact Sport

I don’t recall which friend referred to docking as a “full contact sport.” But there is serious truth in that reference. But before I get to docking, a little more about the day’s events up to the docking adventure.

We had just spent three nights at anchor in a lovely cove on Amherst Island, not far from Kingston, Ontario. It was a well-protected anchorage and we had ridden out a major storm that had numerous boats dragging anchor the first day we were there. The cove had kept us protected from subsequent winds and bad weather over the next couple of days. But it was time to head to a dock for provisions and such.

We finally got underway to Kingston around 11AM and puttered along the shoreline of Amherst scouting out other anchorages for the Great Lakes Cruising Club Harbor Reports.


As we reached the eastern end of Amherst Island, we hauled out the staysail figuring the 8-10 knots of wind from behind would help push us along. Within a short time, the winds increased to the 10-15 knot range. The waves coming down the length of Lake Ontario made for a great rollercoaster ride. For me anyways, not so much for Dan – if you read his last posting.

Lake Ontario
The breakwall entrance to Confederation Basin.

As the waves increased to 4 feet, I attempted different angles of attack to smooth out the ride. It took us out of our way but allowed for longer timespans of running with the waves as we continued eastward. By 1:30PM the wind was pushing 20 knots and building.

I headed north into the Kingston channel, dodging two ferries that had just departed the dock, a jet ski, and a small sailboat that had capsized at least three times while we were heading in.

Docking Team

Entering the Confederation Basin Marina involves going between two very, robust rock breakwalls. With the wind directly on our nose, I had to significantly increase power to get into the basin. Docking in high winds requires the “A” team. My docking, while improving with each year, only rates “B” team status.

While Dan circled in the breakwall-enclosed basin, I prepped fenders and dock lines. The marina staff assigned us a tie-up spot and indicated we had the entire wall at the end of a fairway between piers. Sounded perfect. They also said they would have staff there to assist. We were to look for the “red shirts.” We found them, down a narrow fairway with finger piers on both sides. There were four of the “red shirts” lined up like a defensive football line.

Oh S@#t!

The wind was now gusting over 30 knots out of the south. And coming at us from the aft port quarter.

Lake Ontario
The goal line for our docking maneuver.

With Dan at the helm and me along the starboard foredeck, we were communicating via our headsets. We would have to talk our way through landing the boat for a starboard tie to the “wall”—which was a section of dock connecting other docks perpendicular to the wall we were targeting. When I said I was ready, Dan headed for the goal line, er, dock. And while we had the entire length of the wall, there were boats on both sides as we headed down the 50-foot-wide fairway with the gusty wind at our backs. If you’ve seen the movie “Captain Ron,” visualize the docking scene. The final turn to port had to be done in less than 30 feet — not a simple task with a 50’ boat in a narrow channel.

Reverse, Reverse – Comin’ in Hot

I relayed to Dan that we were coming in hot and to go into reverse. He was already in reverse, but the wind was pushing us along. By this point, another four men had joined the staff to help “catch” our 30,000-lb boat. With Dan in full reverse, he swung the bow to port by cranking the wheel hard over and hitting the bow thruster simultaneously. The wind blew us sideways into the wall. Fastest docking we’ve ever done! It took all 8 guys on the dock to cushion the landing.

Once the boat was settled dockside, and the engine was shut down, the dock crew and assisting sailors chorused “Attaboys” and “Well-done, Captain” to Dan. Afterwards, as we were cleaning up docklines and connecting to shore power, a gentleman from a neighboring boat came over to congratulate Dan, saying he had never seen anyone land a boat of our size perfectly in such conditions.

Skill or Luck?

Later, as we were enjoying an adult beverage, I congratulated Dan on a job well done. His response: “Pure luck.” He then commented, “I’ve never skidded a boat into a landing before.”

Docking – a full contact sport!

Lake Ontario
The storm that rolled through 20 minutes after docking!

August 31, 2022 Amherst Island-Kerr Bay to Kingston Ontario 13.01 Nautical Miles, 820.7 Total Nautical Miles  44°13.666’N  076°28.707’W


  1. OMG I laughed myself silly reading this out loud to Howard! Why wasn’t this on video. I am going to call Dan, Captain Ron from now on, “If it is going to happen, it’s going to happen out there.” Something like that! Too funny.

    1. Hi Ilona,
      We actually had to spring off, winds weren’t quite as strong but we had very little room to back up. Had a couple of nice dockhands hold the stern line tight as we did the spring and then tossed the line back to us. Kept me on the boat, which is always a good thing!

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