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Amateurs try docking challenge

When Chesapeake Bay watermen skilfully handle their lumbering workboats in local boat-docking contests, it’s a fast-forward, stop-reverse operation at speed for the best time — damn the torpedoes, noise, smoke and churning chop.

But the first annual Power Boat Docking Challenge presented Aug. 8 by Customer One Financial at Mears Point Marina on Kent Island, Md., was a more gentlemanly conducted maritime affair, with less macho and good-old-boy bravado, by recreational boaters competing for cash and prizes.

Watermen skippers must leave the controls in competition to toss a looped stern line around a shore piling in the act of stopping just short of crashing into a dock or bulkhead. There are often many guests piled onto the forward deck and cabintop cheering their lone skipper to victory, who must be careful to avoid falling overboard while securing the line.

August’s docking challenge on the Kent Narrows did not include watermen. An organization called Culp Concepts timed the maneuvers with instrumented pilings that penalized for contact, and rewarded for skill and control. Skippers, who acted alone in backing their boats into a typical dock slip, did not have to leave the controls to secure a stern line.

Of six men in the Professional Class (those working in the marine industry and using dealer boats), Barney Kastel of Kastel Brothers won $2,000 for the best score (47.50) in a Custom Manning 36, and his son, Ryan, placed fifth, also in a Custom Manning 36.

Other contestants included Mike Myers of Full Tilt Marina, who took second in a Regal 34 with a score of 92.80. Placing third and fourth were Walt McArdle of Shady Oaks Marina in a Silverton 38, and Matt Jabbing from Clarks Landing in a 34-foot Sea Ray Sundancer. Last place went to Tim Piasecki of The Yacht Center in a Meridian 38 Sedan Bridge with a score of 146.04.

In the Amateur Class for recreational boaters, Fred Shallcross won $300, finishing first with a score of 78.74 in JR’s Toy, a 36-foot Pacemaker. In second was Chuck Wenzel in 3’s Company, a 37-foot Silverton Convertible, with a score of 127.45. Runners-up included Jody Palmisamo in a 42-foot Nautique, Travels With Charlie; Mike Fontanazza in another 3’s Company, this one a 33-foot Trojan 10 Meter; Chuck Sell in the 37-foot Silverton Convertible, Dreamscape; Tony Angelino in Big Kahuna, a 50-foot Sea Ray Sundancer; and Mike O’Neil in See Ya Later, a 33-foot Larson Cabrio, with a high score of 214.06.

“This event was a great success,” says Ed Culp of Grasonville, Md., a Customer One Financial vice president who developed the concept with his son, Chris, and Laney Bisbee. “It was a glorious day weather-wise and we had about 250 spectators.” People love to watch boats being docked, successfully or unsuccessfully.

Next summer the plan is to have six or seven regional qualifying boat-docking events up and down the Bay, and watermen and female skippers will be eligible to enter for more prize money. The finals will be held next autumn at a location yet to be determined.

For information on the challenge, go to