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post #1 of 17 Old 07-09-2009 Thread Starter
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Motoring in Reverse

Sorry if this has already been covered, I did a little bit of searching and didn't really find anything that answered my question.

I have been sailing for a few years now, but it has always been as crew or on a Laser/Hobie Bravo. Well now I have a San Juan 24 with a 7.5 outboard on it. My first time out of the marina was a disaster! Long story short I tried to back out of the slip but the motor died, in trying to get it re-started I knocked the tiller the wrong direction and we wound backwards and pushed up against the boats on the other dock. Luckily I had a crew to keep me from making contact with any boats and a guy from my dock was able to throw me a line to get pulled back in.

Ever since then I have been walking my boat out, slowly swinging the stern around, pulling the bow clear of my slip, pushing the bow off as I get in and taking off. It's simple and stress free, but I kind of feel like it is cheating.

I guess my quetion is this: if I want to get comfortable in reverse, where should I practice? I have thrown the engine in reverse on Puget Sound, but that doesn't really do much for me since I don't have any landmarks/obstacles to navigate around. I also don't really want to practice in my slip area since I am not comfortable. Also, since it is an outboard should I steer with the outboard rather than the tiller? I use the tiller when moving forward, but worry that it won't be as responsive in reverse...

Sorry for the long drawn out question, but I really feel like I need to get comfortable with reverse for days when the wind/current make leaving and returning to the dock less than easy.
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post #2 of 17 Old 07-09-2009
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When I had my 25 footer with 8hp I used to put it in reverse and keep one hand in the outboard and one hand on the tiller. If I needed to turn on a dime I would actually turn the outboard to assist and would be able to squeeze into spots I wouldn't dare now with my inboard.

If you need to practice I would just find a protected spot that is as open as you can find but I think as long as you are careful, the more times you actually back in and out of your slip the better you will become at it and soon it will be as easy as backing out your car - especially with a boat that has an outboard

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post #3 of 17 Old 07-09-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colb218 View Post

...I guess my quetion is this: if I want to get comfortable in reverse, where should I practice? I have thrown the engine in reverse on Puget Sound, but that doesn't really do much for me since I don't have any landmarks/obstacles to navigate around. I also don't really want to practice in my slip area since I am not comfortable. Also, since it is an outboard should I steer with the outboard rather than the tiller? I use the tiller when moving forward, but worry that it won't be as responsive in reverse...
Are there any public docks/piers in your area -- the type where folks can tie alongside temporarily to load/off-load passengers and gear? Or a fuel dock that doesn't get much business on weekdays? Or a ramp with a floating dock alongside? If so, try your docking practice there when no one else is around.

As for using the outboard or the tiller: I would try first to just leave the outboard locked on centerline, and steer the boat only with the tiller. Normally, a spade or transom hung rudder will work very well in reverse too.

The trick is to turn around and face aft as you're motoring in reverse. Turn the tiller so that the leading edge (while going astern, i.e. the edge that is usually the trailing edge) of the rudder is pointing in the direction that you want to go.

In other words, when facing aft and going astern, if you want the boat to turn to starboard, deflect the tiller to port. Try this out in some open but protected water. I think you will be surprised how responsive and easy it is to drive around in reverse while steering with a spade rudder.

When you try backing out of the slip, just remember that the bow will usually swing the opposite direction from the stern. So you want to back out straight initially, then cut hard when you know the bow will clear the dock pilings and other boats. Cross winds and currents may require you to counteract at times.

If you are in an especially tight spot, you may need the directed thrust of the outboard too, but that can get more complicated, so try using only the tiller at first.


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post #4 of 17 Old 07-09-2009
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Some people have actually made a "tie rod" to steer the outboard Parallel with the rudder. The problems your having is one of the reasons I got a larger boat with a inboard diesel and wheel steering.

Denise, Bristol PA, Oday 30. On Tidal Delaware River, Anchor Yacht Club.
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post #5 of 17 Old 07-09-2009
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Some people have actually made a "tie rod" to steer the outboard Parallel with the rudder. The problems your having is one of the reasons I got a larger boat with a inboard diesel and wheel steering.
In 99% of cases backing out a small boat with an outboard is going to be a lot easier than backing out a larger with an inboard.

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post #6 of 17 Old 07-09-2009
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Mines an inboard w/ wheel and the first time I practiced backing I found a dead fish floating on the surface and practiced backing to it. He was already dead so no worries there, and I couldn't hit him hard enough to damage the hull. Worked for me...

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post #7 of 17 Old 07-09-2009 Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. Sounds like a matter of practice makes perfect. I think I am just a little gun shy after my first attempt... time to lose th training wheels I guess!
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post #8 of 17 Old 07-09-2009
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Practice does make perfect. I have a 28' boat with a fin keel and an inboard engine, and I forced myself to back into my slip at every return when I first got her. At first the prop walk baffled me and I had a hard time judging direction, distance and speed; but now I can park her on a dime in reverse.

On Wednesday this week as I left the dock (pulling out forward, of course), one of my fenders caught on something and pulled loose, falling into the water. Without even thinking about it I popped her into reverse, backed her into a neighboring slip where the current had taken the fender, hooked it and pulled the fender aboard. Then I noticed that I had backed my boat into a much narrower slip than mine -- maybe only two feet of clearance on each side of the boat at most. And I hadn't even noticed.

Keep at it and don't let your first experience shake you. You'll get it figured out!

S/V Free Spirit

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post #9 of 17 Old 07-09-2009
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Originally Posted by nk235 View Post
In 99% of cases backing out a small boat with an outboard is going to be a lot easier than backing out a larger with an inboard.
whatever, I'm not getting a smaller boat! PITA reaching over the transom, forward reverse, neutral, tiller, rudder, Looking forward, looking aft, wakes nearly tossing you out of the boat. eh how i miss my hunter 23? NOT!

Denise, Bristol PA, Oday 30. On Tidal Delaware River, Anchor Yacht Club.
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post #10 of 17 Old 07-10-2009
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go find a buoy or beacon with enough depth around it to come at it from all directions. Practice backing up to it until you can touch it with a boat hook. This is a good exercise with any new-to-you boat before trying to dock it. There is a lot less to bump into out there in the middle of the water than in a marina.

doing a few figure 8's is instructive too
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