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Old 06-03-2011
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When we used to back in, we found springlines to be our best friends (as mentioned above). If you have pilings at the entrance end of your slip, rig two long lines on the pilings. When you return, pull up the pilings and grab the lines. Then, as you back in, you can pull on the line on whichever side you want the boat to turn. Of course, do this very slowly so you don't pull the lines out of your hands. You could also give them a half turn on a cleat. I was able to hold the lines in my hands at the helm, center the wheel, and back in perfectly with just a little tension on whichever line was necessary to keep the boat straight. Just kept the rudder centered and throttle at idle in reverse. Just as you are about completely in the slip, cleat both lines and keep the engine in gear while you attach the rest of your docklines. That will keep the boat right where you want it while you hook everything up. It took a few attempts to get everything in sync, but once we had a patten down it i was easy as pie no matter how windy.
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Old 06-03-2011
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When backing and turning into our slip, wind and inertia are problems. There is no current which if present would be another problem.

When backing and turning, the boat continues to turn after straightening the the rudder, so I straighten the rudder a bit early, perhaps 10 - 15 degrees.

The wind typically blows toward the stern, and if very strong it is necessary to come into the slip faster to overcome the effect of the wind. The wind blowing toward the bow tends to turn the bow, is more difficult to handle, and I might decide to enter the slip bow first.
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Old 06-03-2011
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Rules when there is a crowd:

1. Act like you know what you are doing, even if you don't.
2. Plan ahead, issue no verbal commands to the crew. No words spoken, hand signals if necessary. Definitely no shouting.
3. Everyone walks, casual-like, no running, or big leaps.
4. If it goes bad, act like you planned it that way.
5. Beware of dock helpers unless you know them. They will do crazy things like try and pull you in with their backs, not cleat off, etc.

It's not how you dock, its how you look
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Old 06-03-2011
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Docking is a spectator sport. As long as you don't break something you will get the hang of it after awhile and you will wonder what was so hard in the first place. Unless there is a real need to back in I like to be in forward as there is much for privacy and I think more security. At my marina we have short permanent nonfloating docks and pilings. It would be an easier entry and exit to be backed in but I still prefer to be in bow first even though I have to board up by the bow.
Richard Burton
S/V Geisha, Islander Freeport 38
Geisha Sailing Adventures, LLC
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Old 06-03-2011
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You may have a boat that does not steer in reverse. I know I have had two! To be fair the Ryton did steer when at 3 knots or better but the Bombay - fuggedaboutit.

Solution sell current boat and buy a Bendytoy. You can slalom those backwards.
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Old 06-03-2011
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Don't find the wind and/or currents. My boat spins downwind in the slightest breeze, so if my slip is downwind, it's a lot harder to back in (if it's upwind, it's a lot harder to back out).
s/v Laelia - 1978 Pearson 365 ketch
s/v Essorant - 1972 Catalina 27
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Old 06-03-2011
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I've had two Newports and both of them don't like going in reverse. you need to get them moving straight in reverse first and then shift to natural and let you momentum guide you in. once you start to turn then if needed more power then you can kick it in R and back to N. Someone else commented about practice in an empty basin it really does help.
Fair winds
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Old 06-03-2011
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The B40 does not back strait either with her full keel. The rudder is useless in reverse. I usually go in bow to. But if there is no wind/current I get perpendicular to the slip and spin her in stern to clockwise using the prop walk. There is no shame in using lines and pulling her in.

Once I am in, I thank the dock hands and say to everyone else watching- 'Nothing to see here, carry on'
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Old 06-03-2011
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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.
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Old 06-03-2011
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Prop walk-Port or Starboard ? Find out if you have a right hand or left hand prop and you may then know which way your boat has a tendency to turn while backing up--Prop Walk-- (after reading on internet). "Usually a right-hand propeller will cause a boat to walk to port in reverse"(jimh). **You probably have an INBOARD with a left hand propeller with a Starboard prop walk direction of turning in reverse. You can use this to help steer !
--Get a Minn Kota electric motor and use as a stern thruster*(really), if your situation is not too extreme as far as wind and current.
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