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nika44 04-27-2009 10:51 AM

Docking instruction
Our new Beneteau 40 will be launched May 8, they will be giving us a walkthrough and taking us out sailing to go over the boat. I started sailing 15 years ago on 26 , a 32 and lastly a 36 so I am pretty comfortable with the sailing part, as is my husband who sailed on a Tartan 30 as a teenager.

Last year we had a twin screw Formula 27 PC, docking was challenging, but my husband got the hang of it and a few weeks into the season was pretty good at it. As I recall docking the sailboats always was difficult. Panic time, especiall if there was wind. Our new boat comes with a bow thruster which will provide some control, we hope. My question is should we hire someone to spend half the day with us giving us instruction, tips and feedback on docking, or is it just practice. The boat will be in Noank, next to Mystic, so if anyone knows a seasoned sailor who'd be interested in tutoring us, we'd love their contact info.

Faster 04-27-2009 12:05 PM

Actually your sailboat will tend to drift less sideways than a powerboat, and should generally be more easily controlled at low speeds due to the larger rudder. With a bow thruster there should be no great difficulty at all.

I'd just take her out somewhere where there's an open dock with little traffic and practice. You'll find with the thruster you can easily turn in your own length, and I'd expect that boat to behave quite well in reverse gear. The one thing possibly new to you after the twin screws will be prop walk, but again, with the thruster you should be fine.

nika44 04-27-2009 12:14 PM

Thanks, that's reassuring. Too many people have told us if you think that the powerboat was hard to dock, wait to you try to dock the sailboat. These were all powerboaters so they probably don't have first hand knowledge.

bubb2 04-27-2009 12:32 PM

Nika44, your dealer should have someone in the area that could be of help!

I sort of agree with your power boater Friends. A twin screw power boat is a peace of cake to dock. Once you are use the boat, as you know, you can do it without touching the wheel. I not going to say that the sail boat will be harder but different.

I also 2nd what Faster said.

AlanBrown 04-27-2009 12:53 PM

Au contraire, mes amis!

I owned a 35' Mainship with twin engines for a few years. By playing one engine off against the other I could move that boat around anyway I wanted to, in just about any conditions.

Fast forward a few years and I now own a Hunter 30.

Anyone who tells you that docking a sailboat is as easy as a twin-screwed power boat is blowing smoke at you. Your memories of "panic" time when you docked your old boat are there for a reason. Docking a sailboat requires a lot more concentration and preparation because when things start to go wrong, you're generally screwed. You can't just back up and try again. (I can't speak for other sailboats, but I will tell you that my Hunter does not like backing up one bit) So, I've got to get it right the first time.

This being said, successful docking is just another part of the learning process. Once you become familiar with using your bow thruster you will find that it makes your life a lot easier and will quickly boost your docking ability and confidence. You'll learn from your mistakes just like all the rest of us do and the more practice you get, the better you'll become.

Best wishes with your new boat! You've bought a beauty!

capttb 04-27-2009 06:45 PM


My question is should we hire someone to spend half the day with us giving us instruction, tips and feedback on docking, or is it just practice.
Yes, A good instructor for half a day will teach you docking and close quarters handling such that will you do it with confidence.
I keep trying to tell people that you should be able to park your boat just like a car, you simply approach slowly and stop. I've helped a few people in this area and once they learn the "secrets" of propwalk it just takes a couple hours of practice to get proficient. You don't want to get a lot of "dockrash" on your new boat anyway.

labatt 04-27-2009 10:21 PM

I used to be completely scared to dock our sailboat, but now it doesn't bug me at all. My wife always says "Wow" now when I spin her hard around a shallow corner and pull right into a slip. There's no magic though - just practice and getting to know your boat. For example, when you parallel park your car, you just know where your bumpers are. When you pull into a parking spot, you know how close you can cut it to the car in front of you. Likewise, once you get to know the boat, you can make her do anything. By the way - learn the "Back and Fill" maneuver. It will be your best friend, and allows you to turn in a little more than your own boat's length WITHOUT the bow thruster... see for more info.

Dick Pluta 04-28-2009 09:26 AM

There is no substitute for practice. Go out into open water on a calm day and just play around doing slow turns. Here are a couple of tips I have discovered over the years.

First, a fin keel boat rotates on the keel. When you make a slow turn to starboard, for example, the bow turns to starboard, the stern turns to port and the keel stays pretty much where it is. That means you can start your turn into the slip much later than with a full keel boat that makes a big, swoopy turn. I could turn my old Pearson 30 on a dime. My "new" Islander Freeport 41 takes a lot longer to make a turn.

Second, learn how your boat "prop walks". Depending on whether you have a LH or RH prop, the prop will push the stern one way in forward and the other in reverse. I can almost turn my Islander in place using the prop walk effect. Between that and your bow thruster you can probably carve your initials in the water.

Finally, and most important, never dock faster than you are willing to hit something.

Best regards,

Dick Pluta
Moore Haven FL (for the moment)

painkiller 04-28-2009 09:29 AM


My wife and I hired a captain for a day to provide us with docking instruction. It was well worth the price. I tried practicing on my own quite a bit as Faster recommended, but I really just ended up over-thinking it (too much good advice out there) and repeating my own mistakes. So sometimes having somebody knowledgeable standing by makes the difference.

If your broker can't recommend someone, then try calling Annapolis School of Seamanship and see if they can recommend someone in your area. You never know.

KindOfBlue 04-28-2009 09:49 AM

You should consider buying the "Docking and Sail Trim" dvd from Captain Jack Klang. There are some decent techniques discussed and demonstrated.

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