Join Date: May 2002
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When backing into a slip, you have two ways to do it - the fast way, or the slow way.
If you go slow, the rudder won't be able to steer the boat. The prop walk will cause the boat to turn as it backs in. The key to success is to line up the boat correctly before you start to back in. If the boat is positioned correctly, it will back up while turning into the slip.
The fast way is to put the transmission in reverse, and accelerate to a sufficient speed that the boat will have steerageway. That means the rudder will be able to steer the boat. When you have steerageway, put the shifter in neutral, and steer the boat into the slip.
The best advice I can give is, don't think about the problem as you would if you were backing your car into your garage. When you back your car into your garage, you use the motor to get it all the way into your garage. You wouldn't back it to the entrance of the garage and then get out and push it in the rest of the way. But, when putting a boat in a slip, especially singlehanded, don't feel that you have to use the engine to get it all the way into the slip. If you can get the stern past the first two pilings, you can use a boat hook to pull the boat the rest of the way into the slip. I singlehand my 35' boat frequently, and always have the boat hook ready when backing into the slip, because, like most, I don't always get it lined up perfectly, and the boat hook makes virtually every docking a success.
With practice, your skill will improve, but to start, you need to just be able to push, pull or tug the boat into the slip without doing any damage. By doing so, your self-confidence will increase, and that will make it easier for you to learn and improve your skills.