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flicker 07-22-2003 08:57 AM

single-handed docking
I was just reading of the joys of single-handing, and I love to sail, with friends or without. My problem is that my MacGregor 26 won''t move in reverse! This past weekend, I was motoring toward the slip and turned to make a gentle, 90-degree turn to port into the slip. The wind was to our stern, and my keel was half up. To reduce speed from about 3.5 knots to 1.5 knots, I put the Johnson 9.9 into reverse and gave it some gas. My motor is mounted on the port transom, and with prop-walk, the stern pulls severely to port.

Well, the boat turned and the engine whined but the boat never stopped moving downwind. I missed the turn, missed the slip, and almost hit a 60-foot motor yacht in my path. Pinned by the wind, I had to be poled off.

The guys on the yacht pushed my bow off in the direction of the slip and I motored upwind just shy of the piling. I had someone grab piling, we muscled the bow to the other side of the piling and I gave the motor enough gas so that the boat slowly pivoted on the piling, swinging the stern to port to get the boat into the slip.

I was exhausted and bruised (in more way than one) when we tied up the boat and now I''m rather nervous about bringing the boat into and out of the mooring, which almost always has a south wind.

In the past I''ve used dock lines to pul the bow around into the wind when motoring out of the slip, but I''m envious of other boaters in similar sized sailboats who have powerful, center-line diesels and big rudders and who can motor in and out of slips as easily as one backs a car out of the driveway.

I know that eventually I''ll figure out a passable way to bring her in and out of the slip in any wind condition, but I still want to know what may be done to give my 9.9 some pulling power as well as some directional control in reverse.

Are there any changes I can make to the prop to accomplish this?


DuaneIsing 07-22-2003 09:23 AM

single-handed docking

I''m not answering the question you asked, but I have to say that your sentence, " I know that eventually I''ll figure out a passable way to bring her in and out of the slip in any wind condition..." is the key. Understanding how the wind and current affect your boat and how to use them to your best advantage is very important, regardless of how much thrust you have from your powerplant.

I''m not usre how far away you were from the pier at 3.5 kts, but that might be considered excessive if you aren''t sure you have good reverse thrust. Try using just enough to have rudder control.

Someone else with outboard experience can hopefully help you with your actual question. Good luck.


Sailormon6 07-22-2003 11:46 AM

single-handed docking
Outboards often have poor ability in reverse, because many of them are designed so that their exhaust exits through the propellor hub, causing the propellor to cavitate in reverse. Also, a small outboard engine has difficulty overcoming the weight and inertia of a 3000-4000 lb. sailboat. You can probably buy a prop that will increase the thrust of your motor (if it doesn''t already have one), but that won''t solve your problem.

3.5 kts. is way too fast to approach a slip or mooring. In fact, 1.5 kts. is too fast. The motor has to overcome speed, inertia, and the wind on her stern.

My slip sounds similar to yours, with the wind usually at my stern. I would guess that I am making about 1 kt. or less when I am about 100 ft. from my slip. At that point I shift my engine into neutral and let the boat coast. Usually she will glide into the slip and almost come to a stop by herself. If she looks like she''s going to stop a little short, I can either put the engine in gear and give her a small shot of throttle, or I can just let the wind at her stern blow her gently into the slip.

I used to be embarrassed by my ineptness in docking until I learned that docking is all about finesse.

sailingfool 07-22-2003 01:00 PM

single-handed docking
Just a thought - when I had an outboard sailboat, for close manuvering I used to reach aft through the stern rail and steer the boat by turning the ourboard. This was very effective - maybe you can reach yours...

In addition to the sage advice about slowing to just steerage way, you might try to keep your keel down if you have the depth as that would help to minimizes the effect of the wind.

flicker 07-22-2003 01:54 PM

single-handed docking
Yeah, I hear you. Actually, I need to do 1 knot to maintain steering control. I was coming in a bit faster than usual at 4.5 knots because as I thottled down, the boat didn''t lose way fast enough.

I tell you the truth, man, I cut engine speed way down more than 500 feet away from the slip. Then again to an idle 200! I just couldn''t slow dawn fast enough. My boat NEVER keeps way. And now she wants to keep on going. Anyway, that''s when I hit the reverse and nothing happened. We just side slipped.

I never thought about the cavitation from the exhaust. If I could pivot the engine within its mount, I''d be in like Flynn but I''ve been told this can''t be done with this engine.

There''s a mechanic in my new marina and I hope he can get all this straightened out.


BigRed56 07-22-2003 05:39 PM

single-handed docking
Ahoy ye timid iron wind junkies, the Pirates vessel was made to anchor when he had the nerve to sail into Burnt Store marina Channel. Wot I says to the harbor master on de cell phone ? Youse aint''t never seen a sailor before! Shoot , I finally got me a passing Donzi to give me two knots of monentum in de channel and droped the tow line a hundred yards from de slip. Coasted right in and let the natural windage of me hull turn me as I settled in de slip. AARRGGHH

daytonasailor 07-22-2003 06:58 PM

single-handed docking
Is that a 26X you have. I had difficulties docking at Port Orange, just outside Daytona. I had a 26x with enough freeboard to double as a small sail. I had a 50 horse Honda, so power was not a problem. I fashioned a flat plate bar and connected it to the rudders and engine. What a difference in control with the engine and two big rudders turning in the same direction. I also left the water in the ballast till ready to haul out on trailer. The weight seemed to stablize the boat. During difficult docking, I would put the fenders on the lee side and make a controlled crash against the dock, then lower the trailer and man handle the boat onto he trailer. Not highly recommended, but it did work during trying times.

jbanta 07-22-2003 07:26 PM

single-handed docking
Docking is one of the activities I really enjoy sailing solo. I line up my slip and sneak into it as maybe a 1/2 knot. Just as the midships pass the tips of the slip I jump over the side and run to the bow and stop the boat from hitting the dock. I know I look like a Keystone Cop but in the 8 season I have been doing it not once have I hit the dock...

joub 07-22-2003 09:12 PM

single-handed docking
You can avoid the dash to stop the bow of the boat by installing a mid-ship cleat.

With a mid-ship cleat on your boat and a docking line attached to it, just step off the boat and throw the line around a dock cleat. The boats momentum will bring the boat against the side of the slip and to a stop.

If you really want to impress your neighbors, you can measure how long your docking line should be to stop the boat right where you want it. Ty a knot in it at that point. When you step off your boat ty it off on the dock cleat at the knot. the boat will come to a stop where you want it. In my case I just walk around the slip and attach my permanent docking lines!

Of course, you don''t want to try this at 3.5 Kts!!



Scurvy_Dog 07-23-2003 03:21 AM

single-handed docking
I single hand most of the time in a Buccaneer 240. I to do not have a turnable outboard. I find that in reverse I need to get speed up quick, then cut engine to idle to gain rudder control. When docking come in slow and controlled watching what the wind does to the boat on approach. As I make the final approach the engine is usually in idle reverse and I coast in. A cockpit throttle is a must!!

While I don''t have a cleet amidships on the boat I have a rope that stays tied to the dock cleet with a mountain climbers hook on it. As I slowly coast into the slip I step off the boat onto the dock and snap the clip onto my rail. The boat comes to a graceful stop against the dock and never hits the bow.

Good Luck

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