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billbalme 06-01-2009 06:12 PM

Reversing a 37
OK, so I'm not very good at this - but I'm also willing to take some advice...

Toodle-oo! went back in the water today :D and the moanoever required reversing off the truck and backing about 150 feet between two piers about a boatlength and a half wide. It was a little intimidating since the wind was strong - 20 kts, gusting 25. It was almost behind me - on the port side... probably about 200 - 210 degrees apparent.

So I come off the truck and the boat starts reversing towards port - and I have full starboard rudder on. I tried going with strong throttle and with very little throttle. It felt as if no matter what I did with the throttle, she kept coming to port. Three times I had to go forward to realign the boat with the jettys.

No drama, didn't hit anything, but I'd really like to know what I should have done differently in order to come straight out under those conditions.

Thanks for any and all advice.:)


s/v Toodle-oo!

deniseO30 06-01-2009 07:02 PM

I try to allow time (and space) for the inertia of the boat. it's rare that a sailboat engine can just start reversing the boat without some lag time. Once moving in reverse the rudder will work, Again.. when it's time to go forward there is that same lag and wait for the engine to overcome the inertia of the boat. Hope this helps. strong winds can really complicate things as your finding out.

Faster 06-01-2009 07:47 PM

Yes, you do need to have the patience to keep the rudder amidships until you have steerage way on - putting the rudder hard over early acts like a brake and amplifies the propwalk effect.

You don't say what kind of (37'?) boat it is, but there are many popular designs out there that simply will not back up in a straight line no matter what you do.. if you have one of those then you're stuck with the kind of situation you had just now.

You may have been better off to try and spin the boat around as soon as you could - but presumably there was no room to do that.

arisatx 06-01-2009 08:31 PM

I presume you have a Crealock 37.

I agree with what Denise and Faster have posted.

1) Patience - need to get some steerageway and water flowing past the rudder for it to do its work

2) Fixed Prop? - There is a fellow sailor on our dock who is much more seasoned than me and also owns a C37. He has a fixed 3 blade prop vs. our Max-Prop. He swears he can't get his boat to back out straight and has learned to work around it. I have read that one advantage to the Max Prop is less prop walk.

3) Wind @ 210 degrees - that would tend to blow off your bow to starboard and exacerbate your prop walk, I think. That probably didn't help things.

I think that some of the design characteristics which make the C37 desirable in other situations make it tough for us in close quarters maneuvering. One could always trade in for a fin keel / spade rudder / flat bottom boat with a bow thruster.... nah.

nk235 06-01-2009 08:55 PM

I have the same problem on my Morgan 323. The prop is in an aperature and then the aperature frame runs right into the rudder shoe and full skeg so its like it is a full keel design for reversing. Needless to say it does not back up straight for the life of me. As soon as put it in reverse the stern just walks to port and the wheel does absolutely nothing.

I have learned to live with it though and just take extra time to plan any docking meneavure before hand. For instance if I want to back my boat into a slip instead of lining it up straight and then hitting reverse, I point the bow 45 degrees to the left so when I reverse it the prop walk lines the boat into the slip. Then to fine tune the angle I do short bursts of switching it into forward gear and then back into reverse as again the wheel does nothing.

Overtime you will learn how your boat responds to this type of thing so you will know exactly how to line it up, how far to position it and at which point the boat rotates and which point it starts to actually move backwards. Couple that with the wind and tide.....

It is just something you have to accept and do your best with it. The most annoying thing I find is not the fact that my boat doesn't back up but the fact that other people on both spade rudder light disp sailboats and power boats, don't understand what we go through. I was going to kill my friend the other day as he was on the dock yelling instructions to me as I was trying to back my boat into a slip. "Just turn the wheel hard over" he keeps yelling. I honestly wanted to punch him because he is yelling like I'm an idiot mean while his stink pot as a bow thruster!

nk235 06-01-2009 09:04 PM

Also one thing you will have to learn to accept is that you will not be able to get into every dock / slip at the angle or position you want to or sometimes not even at all! For example this past weekend my gf and I sailed across the Sound to Milford, CT and the dock master over there has every single boat pull in bow forward since each slip has a full length finger pier / side dock.

Our slip was all the way at the end of the creek on our port side as we were coming down the channel. At this point of the creek the channel was only 15 yards wide and there was maybe 25 yards of the stream left before it ran into rocks and a small bridge. So I knew if I pulled my boat in bow forward, then the next day when I went to go reverse, the stern would walk to port and no matter what I could do it would point the bow towards the bridge and the end of the creek. I would be screwed because there is no room to meanevuer and no way for me to turn my boat around and since it does not back up straight I wouldn't be able to back out because the boat woud just keep turning until it eventually backed into other boats.

So long story short I simply backed my boat in and made leaving the next day so much easier. Again the annoying part was not doing this, but having to explain to the dock master and every other A-hole on the dock why I was doing it and then listen to them try and give me a lesson on docking like I'm an idiot.

billbalme 06-01-2009 09:24 PM

Thanks all...

The boat is a Crealock 37 - with fixed prop.

I guess the mistake was turning the rudder too quickly? Even though I had quite a lot of speed going backwards, and when I dropped the throttle, she still kept coming to port while rudder was hard to starboard... Did I stall the rudder or something?

Anyway, no damage done - just would like to have managed it a little more elegantly. I need to practice this stuff - I've never yet had the "opportunity" to back in between pilings - hoping to this season!

Thanks again,

s/v Toodle-oo!
Crealock 37 #148

If it wasn't blowing so hard, I'd have turned the boat around - but those piers were both solid rock - not very forgiving!

BirdBrain333 06-02-2009 11:29 AM

Dear Bill, I've seen my friend in a PSC 34 back into some amazing spaces with great control. When I asked "How did you do that?" his reply was that early on in his ownership he backed the boat all the way through a fairly crowded harbor, around mooring balls, boats, floats, and who knows what else. I plan on following that example though I might use lobster pot buoys rather than Hinkleys!
PS 37, Kenlanu, # 171

sailortjk1 06-02-2009 11:40 AM

Use neutral...... after gaining momentum moving backwards shift into neutral. Be prepared to shift back into reverse when you have lost your reverse momentum.
Using this method, I find that I have much more contol of the boat and that once in neutral, all effects of prop walk are eliminated.
Not all boats act the same, and I can not speak specifically about the PS, I have no idea if your boat will act the same, but I have to believe that this will give you more control. Strong winds are a pain to deal with.

billbalme 06-02-2009 11:43 AM

I did actually use neutral for a while - maybe not long enough...

Is there any merit to the thought I might somehow be stalling the rudder or is that gobledegook?

Jay: Not sure what's worse - hitting Hinkleys or getting trapped in lobster pot bouys! Shall give it a go when up in Maine this summer...


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