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Leaving J-Dock

Leaving J-Dock
So, you're getting ready to take a keelboat out for a sail.  You have three goals in mind for getting the boat ready and departing the dock:
1) Safety of you, your crew/guests, and other marina users;
2) Avoiding damage or excessive wear and tear to your boat and others nearby; and
3) An efficient and enjoyable preparation and departure so that you get out sailing quickly and without unnecessary stress.  

It might seem that these goals conflict, and that in order to prioritize goals 1 or 2, you might have to sacrifice goal 2 or 3.  Sometimes, that happens. But that should be the exception, not the norm. The point of this post is to offer a big picture framework for how you can meet all of these goals at once.  Note that this is NOT a comprehensive checklist - your checklist fits within these steps (mostly in step 2).  

  1. Choose your equipment (boat, jib) based on conditions, your crew members, and the goals of the trip.  You probably have thought about these factors before you even get to J-dock, but be ready to reconsider your plan if conditions are different than you expected.  Remember to consult the maintenance log.  
  2. Prepare the boat and your crew while doing everything except raising the sails (raising the sails comes last).  While you and your crew are doing safety checks and getting everything set up, you should be thinking at least as much about your crew as you are about the boat, especially if you have not sailed with the crew much on the keelboats.   
    1. Ask questions about each person’s experience and comfort with the boat and conditions.  
    2. Give each person tasks to help with preparations.  Watch how they complete these tasks, and ask questions.  Do they demonstrate skill and familiarity with the equipment?  Are they comfortable moving about the boat?  Are they clumsy?  Give pointers as needed.  Evaluate who your most and least skilled crew members are.  Is there anyone that you will need to pay extra attention to in order to ensure their safety and comfort while sailing?  
    3. Does everyone have appropriate gear (foulies, whistles, lights, water, etc) for the activity and conditions?  
    4. Do you need to change the plan, equipment, etc based on what you’ve learned about your crew?  Do you need to get one (or more) skilled crew members?    
  3. Include everyone in a brief discussion about safety on the boat and the departure process.  Consider asking one of your more experienced crew members (any senior wannabe) to give the safety talk and propose a plan for departure.  Give feedback.  Make sure that everyone understands their role for the departure plan.  Does the dock person know how to step on?   Encourage questions! Take your time answering.  It’s best to handle questions before the sails are up because it is quieter, calmer, and avoids unnecessary wear and tear on the sails.  
  4. Take off all dock lines except for the one(s) you’ll need to keep the boat in proper position while raising any appropriate sail(s), given the wind direction.  Reposition the boat, if needed.  Raise the sail(s) and cast off.  Have crew help to avoid rubbing the boat against the dock while repositioning and raising sail(s). Be safe and have fun!  
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