Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 11 Old 07-25-2012 Thread Starter
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Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current
The vast majority of time, close quarters maneuvering at low speed is fine. But the strong currents in Beaufort South Carolina can greatly reduce the margin for error. We recently got a great lesson and saw an example of exactly what can happen if you are not experienced with river sailing. My sailing partner got to the marina early and packed and readied the boat for our Sunday afternoon departure. He debearthed her and repositioned her on the face dock. The problem was the direction he faced her he put her back to the wind and her stern in the current. A new moon phase that weekend made for especially swift currents.
Hereís were we got into trouble. I was at the helm. James was at the ready on the dock ready with the lines. I fired the trusty 2gm Yanmar diesel and warmed it up. I checked my position. I was nervous. I had an instinctive feeling this departure was not right. He untied the bow first, shoved it out a few feet, then the stern and jumped on board. I yelled wait!!! Were not right I yelled! James, get the boat hook I screamed. I had no steerage at all. We began to pick up speed with the incoming tide. I had a huge sinking feeling in my stomach. We have 5 boats down the dock and we are now cross ways of the dock moving sideways to the dock with our bow toward the dock. I have a folding prop on the boat and this prop gives almost no reverse propulsion. In desperation, I threw in into reverse and gave it my best shot. Jim could not find the boat hook so he sat down on the bow with his feet hanging over in the hopes to push off the oncoming boats with his feet. With what seemed a lifetime and after pushing off 2 mega-yachts, we were able to finally get the bow into the current and find some steerage. It was so dangerous... We had no less than 5 possible insurance claims that day. Not to mention the near heart attack I had. I learned. Oh yes. I learned the hard way just how volatile a situation can become when you have no experience in close quarter maneuvering in a swift current with a large vessel. I know a lot more today about Close quarter maneuvering; in fact I have been practicing on the face dock over and over again. I spend a considerable amount of time studying the tides and wind next to the marinas dock, before I unhitch the boat. I know just what the boat is going to do. Just thought I would share my near miss in the hopes that someone might read and get inspired to practice in close quarters with your boat before something bad happens. I read and read and practice. Iím doing the best I can, not to get hurt or hurt anybody.
Happy Sailing, be safe.

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post #2 of 11 Old 07-25-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

Trial by fire. Glad it turned out OK. Funny how your gut tells you something isn't going to go right.

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post #3 of 11 Old 07-25-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

That was a tough position to be in, it's like an airplane trying to take off downwind. You correctly point out that the problem started when your crew decided not to round up into the wind and current to land at the face dock.

Only thing I could think of to improve your angle of departure might be to use a quartering line as a spring, backing against it to swing your bow way out before putting it in forward to get away from the dock, being careful of your stern swinging into the dock a the same time.

Or (and this is tricky, maybe too much so), rotate her around at the dock using the current to swing her stern around, so she's bow-upwind before departing. But maybe you didn't have the dock space for this, and maybe the current forces would've been too strong.

Glad it was a near-miss, emphasis on "miss"...
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post #4 of 11 Old 07-25-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

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Originally Posted by ltgoshen View Post
Jim could not find the boat hook so he sat down on the bow with his feet hanging over in the hopes to push off the oncoming boats with his feet.
Good way to break his legs or worse. Not a wise move. Get a fender and always have a boat hook and fender ready before leaving the lines.

We live on a river and I always plan my departures accordingly.

Glad things worked out.
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post #5 of 11 Old 07-25-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

Sometimes the best remedy is to be patient and wait for the tide to ease. That stuff still gets to the best of us.....


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post #6 of 11 Old 07-25-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

I've used the stern dock line cleated past midship, put with engine in reverse until the bow swings out and into the oncoming current but it's really hard to do if the wind is with it.

We, by habit up here on the Tidal Delaware River always come in and out against the current.

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post #7 of 11 Old 07-25-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

In the rearview mirror, I would do 1 of 2 things differently.
1) Face the bow into the expected current when staging the boat for a sail.
2) Do not sail until the tide brings steerage with a tide change.
There was no critical sail time. We could have sailed later in the day. So I would say aeventyr60 you are spot on. Like I said I learned a lot from this.
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post #8 of 11 Old 07-25-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

Good advice so far.
Do you have an Atomic Four?
Do you race?
Depending on your situation, lose the folding prop and go with a the Indigo three blade prop designed for the A4. I had one on my previous C&C 30 MKI and loved it.

Learn to use your prop walk.
Turn you boat 180 degrees at the dock using only lines so you can cast off easier (easier than you may imagine).
Practice casting off in reverse, into the current.

The hardest part can be trying to figure out what will effect the boat more, current or wind. I just had a less than memorable docking experience because I guessed wrong
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post #9 of 11 Old 07-25-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

A) Whoever's handling lines should not cast off until instructed to do so by the helmsman (or woman).
B) Back out from the dock in reverse until out in the clear in the channel. Easy to do with the wind and current behind you.

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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

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Originally Posted by RobGallagher View Post
Good advice so far.
Do you have an Atomic Four?
Do you race?
Depending on your situation, lose the folding prop and go with a the Indigo three blade prop designed for the A4. I had one on my previous C&C 30 MKI and loved it.

Learn to use your prop walk.
Turn you boat 180 degrees at the dock using only lines so you can cast off easier (easier than you may imagine).
Practice casting off in reverse, into the current.

The hardest part can be trying to figure out what will effect the boat more, current or wind. I just had a less than memorable docking experience because I guessed wrong
I plan on racing some later. I have a 2gm Yanmar 13 hp Diesel with a 2 blade folding prop.
I did not think to back out from the dock. This folding prop takes a long time to even notice a change in movement.
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