A couple of Sunday's ago I had an opportunity to help some folks get back to the dock. Their problem was that the wind was blowing directly onto the dock. This meant that even when they let their sail out all the way and turned their boat alongside the dock, the sail was still catching the wind and they weren't slowing down. This meant a landing more resembling crashing into another boat already secured to the dock. If you can't bring your boat to a stop in breeze then your dockings will always be crash landings. Is this just fate that we accept and stoically endure or is there a better way? I am happy to say that there is clearly a better way which is easy to execute.
Here are the easy to follow steps.
1) Before you pass the tip of the island have your halyard ready to run free and loosen your boom vang a bit.
2) As soon as you pass the tip of the island (hopefully 10 to 12 boatlengths from the island - let's say mostly in front of the dock house) push your tiller toward your sail hard and go "head-to-wind". You are essentially going into"irons". You are looking sharp now! Lower your sail all the way down. You have plenty of time so just make it neat enough so you can steer using the tiller without the boom blocking it's range of motion.
3) You now find yourself with no sail up, practically dead in the water, and the wind is blowing your boat to the dock (Isn't that where you are trying to get to?). You will be pleasantly surprised that your boat will very soon have enough way on so you can steer. Aim for the best parking space you can find. The beauty of this is that no matter where your boat finds the dock, it will be a gentle engagement - No Damage! Even if you bump into another boat it will will be gentle as well.
4) If you are skeptical and would like to see this in action then come down to CBI on a late Sunday morning when the breeze is piping up out of the west (Cambridge to Boston). CBI's Tiller Club racers always take a break. They sail back to CBI en masse. You will see all of them dropping their sails before landing. They are racers and do it with a bit more finesse than I just described. However, the fundamental technique is the same. When I see someone executing a docking like this in breeze I know they have some miles under their keel..