How could people dock a ship before tugboats?

So before tugboats, and before steamships (which were around in about the 1860s i think), how could big schooners and barques and ships like that navigate through docks with hundreds of other ships, and then come right up to dock at the piers? Surely that can't be done with just sails?

8 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    Very good question there Girabbit.... Good question indeed...

    Now, I have one for you... How do you think "Tugboats" got their name? Have you ever in you whole life seen a Tugboat tug?

    And WOW!

    Docking with only sails was "surely" done, indeed it was, and indeed it still is being done.

    You really impressed me with "thinking" that steamboats were around in the 1860's - you are so right about that, Bravo!

    Actually "steamboats" started in the very early1800's - Fulton's Steamboat in America (the first successful one) was in 1803. By 1860, steamboats were having their "heyday" - and of course, we are talking about the old Riverboat type, big red sternwheel (or paddlewheel) in the rear - type steamboat. The "screw type" propeller did not come about in the USA until after the Civil War...

    OK, back to your question -

    Any good sailor will approach the dock from a beam or parallel position and from downwind. (Basically, similiar to what you do when you parallel park your car.) At the right "spot" he would relieve his ship from all sails, and turn or not turn his ship into position - and the wind would slowly, gently push his vessel into the dock. Wow! Perfect landing - with no tug, no motor.

    Of course, there were parallel and right angle approaches - but any good sailor even today, knows how to do it. Course, this is only going to work if the Captain is worth his "grain of salt" so to speak. No "tug" was ever needed and embarrasing "second approaches" seldom necessary.

    I'm impressed - good question.

    Happy & Safe Boating

  • quest
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Dock A Ship

  • Dan
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Docking a ship can be done with just sails. There are already some good answers, so I will just say that during a tugboat strike in New York Captain Harry Grattridge docked the Cunard liner S.S. Queen Mary without tugs. Oddly, in his autobiography, he does not mention this incredible achievement. The ship did not have the bow and stern thrusters that are common with cruise ships today, and made great use of tugs.



  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I just LOVE these answers from people who OBVIOUSLY have never spent a day sailing.

    When docking a ship under sail ONLY... there is a manoruver where you go DOWN WIND and stand off the dock about the same distance the boat/ship is long... as your stern clears the point where you want to touch the dock you drop all sails and turn SHARPLY 180 degrees INTO THE WIND and then as the boat slows, you slide onto the dock. Any sailboat captain worth the title should be able to do this easily and the boat will just touch the dock as it loses all forward motion.

    Like I said... most of these people who have answered this question DON'T HAVE A CLUE about how to SAIL A BOAT.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Generally, in the days of sails, ships were smaller than steamships, and if they needed to dock, the skills of the captain and crew, enabled fine adjustment of the sails and steering to navigate it against the dock. The same principle is used for modern yachts.

  • 1 decade ago

    Well there where tugboats at that time - they used human row power to move. Lines passed from the ship to the smaller row powered boats and as they approached the dock areas, lines passed to the dock. By pulling on the lines from the dock, with dock hands and sometimes using horses on the dock, they pulled the ships to the dock.

    Even large ships of that day where small in comparison to today's ocean vessels, and there where not as many large ships in a harbor as today.

  • A T
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    A ship was lashed to the dock, and a process known as "walking" the ship was proceeded with, a form of alternately tightening and loosening the hawsers ( main ropes ), to bring the boat/ship to the dockside, usually in turn with the current or tide.

    For more manouvres, in a tight corner, the "whalers", ( a form of rowing dinghy, originally used for whaling, hence the term, ), were launched, overboard and the men called on to row the "head" , ( bow, or stem), round to its final location, where a guy rope (hawser), was tied up to the bollard (stanchion ) on the quayside, thereafter the walk began.

    A "walk" is done, on the basis of a "spring", being set, ( a spring is a layout of ropes, that are crossed on the dock side of a boat, usually forward and aft springs are "set", ( though some times, mid point/mid way, springs are used with the bigger vessels ),

    The arrangement is for the smaller vessels to be, attached to a hawser, at the rear ( aft ), and at the front ( forward, "forrard", stem or bow ), both of which are attached to the bollards on the quayside, at a point approaching the centre of the vessels sides.

    A third rope, (hawser ), is attached ( on deck ), forward of the rear hawser, and attached again to the rear of the vessel at the quayside.

    While the fourth hawser, is attached to a bollard on deck, aft of the forward hawser, and to the quayside, forward of the forrard hawser.

    From the side of a vessel, the two sets of hawsers appear crossed over,

    one at the rear of the vessel,

    and one to the front),

    This acts as a "spring", and by tightening the hawsers alternately, the vessel; is "walked" into the quayside, or alongside another vessel, in a similar fashion, to a quayside docking manouvre....

  • jtexas
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    back in the day, men were men and sheep were scared to death.

    Seriously, it didn't usually come off without a hitch. there wasn't OSHA to worry about, sailers were all the time getting maimed or killed. Ships didn't carry tons of fuel oil, so a collision didn't involve the EPA.


    BTW, don't pay any attention to people who make fun of you because you "don't have a clue" -- how the heck else are you gonna get a clue?

    Source(s): just a wild-assed guess
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