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Nitefly 05-04-2010 03:41 PM

Reverse is an adventure
Ok... so I purchased my first sailboat in December and launched at the beginning of April. I have had 4 sails since then and my family and I are really enjoying the boat. In these first 4 trips, I have identified some things I need to work on to keep the stress low and the fun high!

1. Reverse! On my Tartan 30, backing out of the slip seems to be an adventure in going anywhere but where I think the rudder is telling the boat to go. Once I am free of the slip an in forward gear, things get back to normal, but I am hoping to control this thing going backwards at some point! Fortunately, I don't have boats behind me, but depth becomes an issue pretty quick.

2. Coming back into the slip - So far, I have grounded the boat once, had a Sea Ray come within a couple of feet of us in our creek (it is pretty narrow in Parrish Creek so maybe this is just normal), come into the dock a bit too fast once and a bit too slow once.

3. Dealing with high traffic - my first three sails were in very low traffic, but with the fourth sail, it was a bit of a challenge to get through the two channels I needed to on the way back in (West River entrance and Parrish Creek entrance). It seems like this is just something to get used to.

4. Getting the sails up and down - this one is working itself out and getting better every time we go out.

I figure I can just start practicing getting into and out of the dock on a Monday and that should help, but does anyone have any tips for reverse on these things? Any other Tartan 30 owners?

Next, we plan on anchoring out for lunch, then trying our first overnight!

remetau 05-04-2010 03:59 PM

Here is the method that I use from

OK, let's say we want to back our boat (that backs to starboard due to propwalk) slowly into a narrow slipway. Start by lining up with your stern headed in toward the slipway and put your helm all the way over to starboard (and leave it there). (WHY put the helm to starboard? Because when you're backing slowly the helm has very little effect anyway -- especially with a full-keel boat, so putting it to port won't do much to counteract the natural tendency of the stern to move to starboard anyway, and we're going to need the helm to starboard for the "gooses" -- you knew that had to be coming, right?) Now, put her in reverse and give her enough throttle to get her moving in reverse. As soon as she's moving backward (and starting to turn to starboard), shift into neutral and coast. This will stop the propwalk and let you coast almost straight back. As you start to slow, shift back into forward and give her a quick goose. Because of the starboard helm, this will "hop" the stern to port without moving forward (completely offsetting the propwalk -- plus maybe a little more), and then you can then repeat the process. Now, this may sound a little complicated (you'll be following a slightly "scalloped" path), but you can back as slowly as the wind/current conditions will allow without terrorizing yourself or the other owners in the yard.

This method works great.

The best thing to do is practice and take your boat out.

CalebD 05-04-2010 04:13 PM

With a 2 blade prop reverse can be an adventure on our Tartan 27. I am not an expert but the best advice I have been given so far seems to be thus:
- keep the tiller/wheel centered at first
- rev up the engine in reverse until the boat starts moving backwards. At this point the rudder should start to 'grab' and some people will even put their engine in neutral to stop the prop walk effect from occurring.
- if you can use the prop walk effect to help you turn then so much the better.

I still need to practice with reverse while away from obstructions.

For your first overnight anchoring I would recommend Harness Creek which is a short ways up the South River. There is a 'gunk hole' off on the right that is surrounded by a park (no houses) so it's a great spot and an easy sail from where you are.

deniseO30 05-04-2010 04:33 PM

I do that.. use the rudder and put er back into neutral the more I practice reverse the more I'm able to maneuver her. Standing with your back to the bow works too!

AdamLein 05-04-2010 04:50 PM

Don't have experience with your particular boat, but I can sympathize.

All the comments so far are good, especially about shifting into neutral to disable prop walk. One comment about prop walk, though... on most boats (all boats with right-handed props), prop walk is to starboard in forward and port in reverse (i.e. the stern is pushed in those directions). If you forget, curl the fingers of your right hand and point your thumb in the direction the motor is pushing your boat. Your fingers curl in the direction the prop is turning.

The next thing to realize is that, depending on what direction the wind is coming from, you might want to back out in one direction or the other. In my boat, there's a very strong tendency for the bow to blow off downwind. Since I need to depart to starboard, a wind from port is very nice since I can just back out straight and quick and the wind and prop walk will work together and make for a nice tight turn, after which I'll motor ahead.

On the other hand, sometimes the wind is coming from starboard. In this case I'll back to starboard all the way out into the marina's fairway, then motor ahead. It's tricky since i'm fighting the prop walk in this case.

Learn to work with the various forces acting on your boat, instead of against them, and you'll have a much easier time of it.

Faster 05-04-2010 05:06 PM

On some boats prop walk ceases to be a factor once you're at a maneuvering speed in reverse... if this is not the case then shifting to neutral strategically should help.

Other boats, however will slowly turn in a particular direction regardless of your efforts to "steer".. these are the most difficult to deal with in close quarters. In this case learning the boat and trying to set yourself up for the easiest move will help. (ie choosing to back in to make leaving easier, or vice-versa), or as Adam has pointed out leaving one way in certain conditions and another way if tide/wind is reversed.

Poor reverse performance has always been one of the 'deal breakers' for us in our boat selections.

Nitefly 05-05-2010 12:44 PM

Thanks for the responses. Looks like I have a couple techniques to try out.

jaschrumpf 05-05-2010 01:45 PM

What about a spring line from an aft cleat to a dock cleat or piling in a line perpendicular to the boat's long axis? That would keep the stern from walking, but would it do so at the cost of rotating the bow away from the dock as well?

AdamLein 05-05-2010 02:25 PM


Originally Posted by jaschrumpf (Post 600976)
What about a spring line from an aft cleat to a dock cleat or piling in a line perpendicular to the boat's long axis? That would keep the stern from walking, but would it do so at the cost of rotating the bow away from the dock as well?

Not sure I'm picturing this right. Does the line from a stern cleat to the nearest dock cleat? That could counteract the prop walk, but I'd call it a brest line... it would be hard to back out of the slip with that line on.

Alternatively with a spring line running forward from a stern cleat, the direction of pull isn't really right to counteract prop walk. I expect the boat would just pivot around her bow.

SVCarolena 05-05-2010 02:42 PM

We have a very narrow slip and generally back in to make leaving less of an issue. Because there is very little room between the fingerpier on one side and our neighbor on the other, propwalk is a major issue for us. What we have learned to do is keep two springlines tied to the pilings at the end of our slip. When we return, we pull up very slowly alongside the pilings and grab the springlines. We come to a stop with the stern just past our slip. We then put the boat in reverse and use the springlines with a half wrap on the cleats in the cockpit. We keep a little tension on the lines as we back, and by increasing tension one line or the other, we are able to keep the boat straight as we back into the slip. It is a little slower than trying to just drive in, but even in high winds it works very well. Better to be slow than come in out of control and risk hitting the dock or our neighbor.

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