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  #1  
Old 07-16-2013
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Docking for Dummies

New boat owner here. I'm having some anxiety about backing out of my slip, after failing to get enough momentum for steerage on a recent attempt and having the prop walk and wind spin my boat clockwise when I was attempting to turn her counter-clockwise.

Ideally, I'd like a fool-proof (anxiety proof?) way to reverse out of the slip, against the prop walk, particularly while I'm still a novice. This method of using a stern spring line looks appealing, but I'm worried that I don't understand how it could go wrong, and what to do if it does. Is it really as simple as this video makes it look?

So far I haven't had much problem getting her back in the slip (fatal last words, I'm sure) although I'm still a little uncertain which lines to use to completely stop the boat while we tie her up. Any tips?

Many thanks,
E.
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  #2  
Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Docking for Dummies

Capt Jack is a classic. I met him at the Annapolis Boat Show several years ago. Nice guy too. He has an entire docking DVD. You should grab a copy. He's right on.
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  #3  
Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Docking for Dummies

Use the motor to stop the boat If your prop walk is in the wrong direction can you switch to a better slip? What type of boat do you have and motor? An incoming or outgoing tide might also be part of the culprit/savior. I suggest you take a booze cruise every night at sunset, the dock will be mostly empty and wind calm, do it 30 or 40 times till you can do it in your sleep. Have a few friends to fend you off.
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Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Docking for Dummies

I have the same boat as you.

Can you better explain your docking situation? This is what I've got:
Docking Diagrams - AlexAndChristine's Photos | SmugMug

Our boat has a large freeboard for a boat it's size, so any wind over 10 knots will push it around quite a bit. This is especially true in reverse at slow speeds, like when you're coming out of a slip.

I can't spring out of my slip into my preferred orientation and end up going forwards, so I sometimes head out in reverse.

I also have started to push my boat into reverse rather than using the engine. This eliminates prop walk and gives good steerage at low speeds. Obviously this depends heavily on the dock arrangement and how comfortable you are at jumping onto the foredeck of a (very slowly) moving boat.

I often use spring lines on linear docks, but don't find them helpful in my marina slip. This is why understanding fully your dock (are you port or starboard tie, is someone next to you, what is the prevailing wind condition) will all matter.

I will say that our boats go in reverse quite well above 2 knots and are easy to steer and control. This is good to keep in mind if reversing out of a long fairway is going to be your best option.
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Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Docking for Dummies

Are you saying that if you put the rudder hard over, with a good amount of reverse thrust, you can't get the bow pointed where you need? On my 27' with outboard, the rudder still wins over the prop walk if I get enough speed and put it hard over. It's usually OK to give the reverse a lot of throttle (enough to make the rudder work), because the forward gear is so much more powerful, so you can 'stop' quickly.

I can't tell from your description, but you need to make sure you're actually going fast enough. Below a certain speed, the rudder isn't going to work well, and prop walk will easily out-do it.

As I still consider myself new to boats, I can understand the general anxiety about this. Here's two hints that helped me:

1) Prop walk is very helpful, because it means you can rotate and solve almost any problem just by alternately forward/reverse. If things go wrong backing, go forward, and then reverse again, etc, and eventually you'll get pointed the way you need to go.
2) As long as you keep your speed at a minimum (the minimum needed for steerage), and you have someone helping you, and your motor is a good, there's not a lot that can go wrong. If something isn't right, use the motor to bring things to a stop, and fend off, if necessary. Obviously having fenders and a boat hook around help; don't use your body.

My suggestion is to avoid the spring line trick, unless you actually need it. I've seen so much silly stuff at docks by people trying to do strange things with "spring lines," when what they really need to be doing is driving the boat like a normal person. As a novice, it's just one more thing to distract you from keeping track of where the boat is going. In particular, trying various tricks to flip lines on or off cleats can easily go wrong as a novice. It's easy to get into a situation where you're freaking out because you can't get your line flipped off a cleat and you don't realize that you're backing into a crusty pylon.

EDIT / WARNING: Any "advice" I have in the area of docking should be considered suspect in light of a terrible "docking" incident that occurred mere hours after this post: First time singlehanding, bad things happen, the sound of breaking fiberglass, etc

Last edited by aaronwindward; 07-17-2013 at 06:23 AM. Reason: bad things happened after posting
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Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Docking for Dummies

Most sailboats are pretty hard to control in reverse, especially before you have enough way on.
I generally keep the rudder hard over (in the direction of the prop walk) and when she begins to get off center, put it in forward, giving a hard burst of power (only enough to swing the stern back on center, NOT go ahead). Since boats turn around their center, unlike a motor vehicle, once mastered, this system will work on even the most cantankerous boat, if they do not have an offset prop.
Whenever possible, always turn, using the back and fill maneuver, with the prop walk. It is almost impossible to go the other way anyway, and if you add a bit of wind and/or current you might be in a real pickle.
Learning to use spring lines is definitely a very important thing to learn, but basic boat handling skills are invaluable if you want to enjoy your time on the water, not stressing about your next docking.
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Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Docking for Dummies

Quote:
Originally Posted by emcentar View Post
New boat owner here. I'm having some anxiety about backing out of my slip, after failing to get enough momentum for steerage on a recent attempt and having the prop walk and wind spin my boat clockwise when I was attempting to turn her counter-clockwise.

Ideally, I'd like a fool-proof (anxiety proof?) way to reverse out of the slip, against the prop walk, particularly while I'm still a novice. This method of using a stern spring line looks appealing, but I'm worried that I don't understand how it could go wrong, and what to do if it does. Is it really as simple as this video makes it look?

So far I haven't had much problem getting her back in the slip (fatal last words, I'm sure) although I'm still a little uncertain which lines to use to completely stop the boat while we tie her up. Any tips?

Many thanks,
E.
I have done just what that video showed, it worked great. The trick is to only give it just enough throttle to start the boat moving, then let it coast, and the slower it goes, as long as it is moving backwards steadily, the better. The line really will turn the boat, it has to, as long as you hold it and force the pivot.

Just have someone on board a few times to fend for you and practice it over and over, touch and go just like a pilot in training. Focus on your surroundings, and feel the way your boat moves, get used to the feel and try it under various conditions, practice will build confidence and make you a more perfect sailor.

Mark
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Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Docking for Dummies

I recommend finding a buoy near you in a place with little traffic and waves. If you cannot find one, make one with a fender. Spend an hour pretending it is your slip. Approach it from upwind, down wind, cross wind. Fast and slow. set a second buoy and do figure 8s around them in reverse.

Learn what prop walk is, and practice going from still (near the buoy) to reverse with the wind in various places. See what the boat does between when you put it in reverse, and when you can steer with the rudder.

Learn what rudder wash is, and practice going from still (near the buoy) to forward, using rudder wash. See how far you can turn the boat without moving forward.

Put you bow to the buoy and use prop walk, then rudder wash, then prop walk, then rudder wash to turn the boat 360 degrees. You can turn it in its own length with practice. Do this first with little wind, then in stronger winds once you master it.

Watch lots of youtube videos. Some really good instructors have made some awesome videos and put them online for free:


If you learn the theory, and then practice in a safe, stress free place, you will be confident in now time. In your marina with obstacles and spectators is no place to learn how to maneuver a boat. Too scary!

Note: make sure when practicing to not get your prop too close to the buoy. You don't want to get your prop tankled in the line. If you get to close, just put the engine in neutral and drift until you are a safe distance away.
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  #9  
Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Docking for Dummies

[QUOTE=Alex W;1060172]I have the same boat as you.

Can you better explain your docking situation? This is what I've got:
Docking Diagrams - AlexAndChristine's Photos | SmugMug

I don't have a picture, but my boat is in the same situation as yours, with the following exceptions: my pier is a little finger pier (no jumping on the boat last minute) and my exit is in the opposite direction. Prevailing winds are usually from port.
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Old 07-16-2013
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Re: Docking for Dummies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex W View Post
I have the same boat as you.
I will say that our boats go in reverse quite well above 2 knots and are easy to steer and control. This is good to keep in mind if reversing out of a long fairway is going to be your best option.
After several attempts to turn her counter-clockwise, in the end I just went clockwise and drove her backwards out of the fairway. She does move in reverse remarkably well, and this wasn't difficult at all.
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