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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Learning to "Warp?"

 posted by Ardys

Let's talk about one of the essentials of living on a sailboat--the part where the sailboat moves, and the potential need to warp.

Warping, for the uninitiated, is the art....(yes, I will call it an art) of causing a very long vessel to more or less, pivot slowly around a piling which is at the mouth of the tiny little slip into which said long vessel is intended to fit.  It's rather exciting because the opportunities to damage our and others' boats who are also crammed into teeny little slips alongside, is fairly high.  I learned to sail on Lake Superior and had never before even heard of warping. There was never any circumstance in which it would have been necessary!   All of the American and Canadian towns and cities on Lake Superior where we docked provided fairly generously long docks, wide slips and reasonable room to approach the slip, all of which are sorely lacking, at least in my experience on the East Coast.
Superior, WI  Note spacious slips and long docks.
Any readers who are interested in unfettered sailing with deep water and luxuriously sized slips are steered toward Lake Superior for that experience.  Also, I will offer a plug for incredible wilderness sailing on the Canadian shore of Lake Superior. 

So......our brand "new" boat, 43' Northern Star was launched at Bert Jabin's Boatyard, and we headed into ALM (Annapolis Landing Marina), where we had reserved a slip for her.  The marina had just been dredged so our 6'6" draft should have been no problem. Should have.  We ran aground at the mouth of our assigned slip.  
Annapolis Landing Marina.  Compare these narrow slips with the slips on Lake Superior above.  We narrowly avoided driving our anchor into this nice little houseboat in the slip next to us.......more times than I care to remember.  

We were rerouted to a slip farther out on the dock which unfortunately for us newbies, provided a very narrow approach area at a bottleneck shaped part of the marina.  Not only that, it was even narrower from one side than the other, in fact, probably the most cramped space from which to enter a slip in the entire marina.  Since we were new to the marina, there were marina staff available to help us get her in.  It wasn't pretty, but nothing was damaged.  I admit what I said to my husband after we got her in was, "I'm not sure I want to move this boat again. Don't know if I can take the anxiety."  
Bottleneck behind our boat and the houseboat beyond.

Of course, we did move her again.  ALM actually has really nice long docks but it was that darn cramped approach that was giving me jitters.  We noticed that almost all the other boats had backed into their slips.  Again, something I had rarely, if ever seen on Lake Superior.  What reason would there have been to back into a slip on Lake Superior?  When you are able to jump off a boat onto the dock from most anywhere along the length of our boat, there's no reason to go in backwards.  Well, here the boats go in stern first because the sailors can then exit their boat from the cockpit, as intended, rather than climbing over lifelines from farther forward on the boat.  Seeing as how we had a dinghy hanging from davits on our stern, and seeing as how we wanted to be able to use the dinghy and seeing as how the marina does not allow dinghies to be sitting in the water full-time we needed to keep the dinghy up on the davits and accessible to the water.  
Jax yearning for a dinghy ride at ALM

So, to deal with the major challenge of getting in and out of slips (something I had given little thought to before arriving in Annapolis) we did what any savvy sailor would do. We kept a sharp lookout for any boat leaving or re-entering their slip nearby, so we could scurry up to the cockpit and surreptitiously spy on how they did it.  Most boats came in with a crew of two or more and they seemed to handle their boats very efficiently.  One of our neighbors came in single-handedly each time.  Rather than feeling encouraged, I felt more hopeless than ever after watching him.  We were never going to be as accomplished as that guy.  We watched You Tube videos.  That helped a little, but truthfully, the examples on the videos always seemed to have more room in their slips to work with than we did, so.....not fair.
South Annapolis Yacht Centre.  Very short, narrow docks.  

We knew that after we moved the boat over to SAYC (South Annapolis Yacht Center) on Spa Creek, our slip would be even narrower than at ALM.  We had driven over in the car to look at our intended slip. My first thought was "holy s***!  We gotta get the boat into that!" Back to the You Tube videos.  This is when I learned about warping.  My husband had known about the concept, but it was not something that had ever made the cut in terms of our boating skills discussions.  

Warping would be the ONLY way we were going to get our boat into the new slip at SAYC.   As I mentioned, anxiety was running high about this.  We talked it over.  We tried to process together what I was going to do, when and with what lines while my husband was holding the boat thus and such.  I felt about as confident after that discussion as I would if I'd been planning to do an aerial gymnastics routine after which my husband would catch me in his bare hands.  Yup, that confident.

Planning the warp.  Cheese knife as demo.

Then I struck upon what I thought was a brilliant aid to our discussion. Our cheese knife.  Our cheese knife is long and narrow (like our boat) and it has places along its' length where lines can be attached (like our boat) and so we could practice warping using the cheese knife for the boat and spice bottles for the pilings.  Genius!  It worked.  I'm not saying it was a cake walk, but I was impressed with our ability to warp that boat around the outside piling, pull it into the slip with those lines and not hit anything.  As it turned out, we decided to request to move to a different slip with a wider approach because we didn't want to have to do that each time we came in and out, but we did make it work!  
Jax likes tight spaces.  16" clearance on either side of the boat, just enough room to put a horizontal fender. 

So, here's how we 
warped.   The helmsman (in this case, my husband) slowly brought the boat up alongside (perpendicular to) the outside piling of our slip.  He stopped just short of the bow touching the opposite piling.  Then. it was a matter of making the boat pivot around that first piling.  To prepare for that, I had first secured a long dock line from the cleat at the stern of the boat to a cleat at midship, running that line outside of the lifelines. Another long dock line was attached at the cleat on the bow and brought back to the midship cleat (again running it outside of the lifelines) where I could access them both readily.  I then used a shorter dock line to throw over the piling from midship while keeping the bitter end in hand.  Once we were "attached" to the piling, the engine could be shut off and we could both then manipulate the bow and the stern lines to help us pivot around the piling.   One of us slowly eased off on the short dock line to allow the boat to move forward into the slip while the other pulled the boat forward using the stern line.   The long dock line from the bow would prevent us from running into the dock.  The idea was at least to get far enough into the slip that one of us could get off the boat to attach a bowline on the dock.  It worked remarkably well!  I would not have wanted to do this with much wind however.  Okay, so we're not pros by any means, but we can warp.  One more thing learned. It's all about the right cheese knife.


Mark Bennett said...

I love warping! You feel so salty doing it. We've even tied off a windward piling and "rappeled" Mintaka sternward, downwind into a pile berth. I also love pilings, but that's because we have whisker stays on a bowsprit. I can lay Mintaka up against a piling, and use it to rotate her in tight places.

Pat Collins said...

Nice job getting it figured out. The cheese knife model is brilliant.

Ardys said...

thanks for the compliment, Pat