Press "Enter" to skip to content

Skipper’s Corner

You love your boat. You keep it shining and mechanically perfect. That’s the way most boat owners are. But do you have the same concern for where you dock your vessel, be it at home or in a marina? The fact is you can avoid a ton of aggravation if you keep your dock in good order.
Many accidents are avoidable if you do periodic checks on the condition of your dock starting from the pilings up.
Good pilings last many years but when they begin to show real wear and tear, they need to be replaced. They are expensive but so is your boat or an injury when one fails. Fastened to them are the pile caps and they hold the stringers to which the decking is applied. Are they looking and feeling a little shaky? Replace them or at least sister them up with another until you can attend to it more professionally. The decking should be closely inspected. Is each board in good shape or are they splitting or rotting? Again, replace them. Some smooth sailors turn them over so that the better underside faces up. This technique saves money, but the underside is still rotten and bound to give way sooner than later. So, what was gained? Absolutely nothing!

Today most decks are being fastened with stainless steel nails or better yet, screws. I have continued to use three-inch galvanized but I’ll be switching soon. Today galvanized nails are no longer “Hot dipped” and they do not have the longevity of those long ago “Made in America” nails. I should have switched long ago and am tired of re-nailing and replacing boards because all that is sold are sub-standard galvanized nails from China.
Then there are your cleats – Are they bolted deep or through a thick stringer? On pilings, are they bolted deep with the proper size bolt and facing to the sides of the piling? You want to know you have the correct size that will hold your boat – go cheap and risk failure. If the cleats are on your deck, it would be wise to paint them white with metal adhering paint. Why? So, you don’t trip on them in the dark! Have I done it? No! But it is on my list for this coming week. If you use whips for your boat, don’t only rely on them. When you do not intend to get back on your boat use your whips with dock lines and bumpers. And one more thing – make sure your fixed dock or pier always has a ladder to get back up when you fall in the drink.
Almost everything that holds true for your fixed dock applies to the sides, deck and cleats of your floating dock but you have to keep after it. Is your floatation going bad? Replace it with more durable blow-molded floats. Check your chains (Vinyl coated is the best) or any alternate means you employ to keep your floating dock in place between the pilings. Use 1 2/2” PVC rings cut from pipe to help the chain move up and down with tidal action on your floating dock. This prevents wear and tear on the chain and the piling.
Lastly, make sure any gangplanks used are in tip-top condition including wheels, brackets, banisters and decking. For very high storm tides it is best to remove the connecting brackets to the shore side and leave the gangplank lying on the floating dock to be refastened after an extraordinary storm tide. This will save the wear and tear of your gangplank and floating dock.
If you only rent dock space keep after whomever you rent from to keep your boat and you safe at the dock.
See you on the water.
Captain Eddie