Owner 4knot sb.
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: East Stroudsburg, PA
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Re: Docking with an outboard
My outboard doesn't have a gearshift, if it's running it's spinning... that's good and bad.
Anyway, I think what you are hearing is that how the rudder mounts affects how successful the rudder steering is in reverse. A transom mounted rudder will react differently than a under stern mounted rudder.
I have a narrow turn into my slip (probably not as bad as some), and I dock bow-in ...
The rudder on my boat is extreme in size, so my docking procedure is to motor up until I get to the outskirts of the dock, power down to 1 knot, then the last 100 feet or so I kill the motor, and steer exclusively with the rudder. If I find I have too much speed, I stall the rudder hard over and flop it back until I get a desired speed. I don't have 2 chances as I'd have to fire up my motor again to get me moving again, if I miss it (which thankfully I have not yet), I'll either be aground, or slamming the dock, or being pushed into other boats (depending on wind) by the time I get started again. I therefore keep my motor locked dead center for this (as I usually solo sail, and I am the one catching the boat). Keep in mind the boat is very light it gets blown around easy, but stopping it by hand is easy (makes this easier).
Backing out is another story... since I prefer to drive out of my dockage, I back up towards shallow water, spin the bow to port and drive out straight. This requires a strong coordination of motor spin (because my motor only runs straight, reverse is SPIN the whole motor around)... So with a 180 spin to the motor until I get moving in reverse, I back up halfway out of my slip then slowly turn the motor 90 degrees, this pulls my stern hard to starboard, sometimes I'll also turn the rudder if I'm not getting enough spin. Then I'll throw the motor another 90 (now dead straight forward), and gun it to stop the boat from backing anymore, this process naturally spins the bow around to port, it's a critical 2-5 seconds where the boat has no steering (via rudder OR motor) while I drift in between boats on either side to shoot out of the marina. Because of this, I may rotate the motor one way or another like a stern thruster to get pointed the right way.
I go through all this to tell you, there isn't "just one way." My boats rudder being in front of the motor and reversing causes a very touchy tiller, but it also gives INSTANT correction if I need it. The higher the throttle the worse that touchiness is. This has to be true of most outboards.
By the way my previous boat had a gearshift motor, and a stern mounted tiller. I still had to spin the motor some, and turn the tiller to make this tight turnaround especially when there is little progress (moving slow). Granted, I could choose to back out all the way, turning etc, but I've found the winds are usually light in my slip and significantly heavier by the end of our dock, and it's not unusual to get seriously waked while doing this (skiers).
You should definitely practice away from the marina with how the boat/motor/rudder combo reacts. For most situations a fixed motor pointed forward will work fine.
"Rum Line" a 1982, S2 7.9 - Production boat limit tester, blue-water bucket owner, with wine taste on a beer budget.