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Always learning...
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Our Jason 35 does not back well. We avoid the maneuver when possible, though when necessary, I can usually manage pretty well keeping her going in the right direction using bursts of prop wash to point the bow in the right direction. Wind, of course, can make things a little more challenging.

Our lift-out for winter layup was scheduled for today at 07:30. We arrive at the boat to 15-20kt winds, gusting a little over that. At least they’re from the west, which means I can approach the lift well to my port and facing into the wind, so I can use the wind to help push my bow around as I back in.

This is only our second season with Pinniped, and our second-ever lift-out, so I’m a bit nervous. When I’m nervous, I plan meticulously, and formulate alternates. The wind was making me extra nervous this time around. Last year, no wind, so it was easy to crab my way back into the lift well. When I’m really nervous, I will sometimes ignore environmental changes that my brain figures aren’t important.

So take a look at the most patient lift crew, and watch as I botch the maneuver in different ways until I get it right.


After action report: I missed that the wind had clocked to the north-west before we left the dock, and that was blowing my bow down instead of over. I should have started backing with a much greater angle on the boat into the wind, so it would push my bow east instead of south. But hey, it was another learning experience, and I didn’t break anything.
 

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I was trying to figure our why you kept playing with the winch handle! That is the strangest location for the engine controls I have ever seen!

I think your mistake was trying to back it into the lift like you were parking a car in a parking spot. It is very difficult to get the boat stopped, then moving backwards AND turn 90° with so little space.

After you aborted, turned around and went back out into the main fairway you probably would have been better off reversing back towards the lift rather than turning around and approaching it forward again. That way you would have had plenty of room to get some way on and gain steerage, and then just a bit of a dog-leg into the lift rather than a 90° turn.

This summer I had to back into a stern tie between boats in a tight area and I made a right mess of it. Fortunately there were enough hands around that we were able to muscle the boat around. Fortunately there was no video of the fiasco, and if there was, I don't think I would post it on YouTube!


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A free suggestion from someone who trains people to drive things nearly twice that long in much tighter.. and dangerous conditions. SLOW the fu** down and stop caring what people think. You're humble so you've got this :) But if you need to stop.. flat out.. do it. If you need to take a lot more space then slide in later. Do it. Noone gives a **** if you nail that one thing that one time. Everyone is impressed if you dont hit ****. My job is not to hit ****. The newbies in my job try to impress people and get kickedo ut of the industry. The guys who make $$$$$ and have done it for 20 years are the ones who give zero f**** what anyone thinks and do whatever it takes to do it safely and easily. NICE video editing and work
 

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My 47 footer has the most ferocious propwash to port making reversing a near pipe dream, without a large crew fending off. The worst thing is its slip is next to a longer slip on the port side, so the aft port pile is 10 ft further aft than that to starboard, which makes it real easy to back straight into the port side aft pile, with the middle of the transom!

What is your engine control? I’ve never seen one that uses a winch handle.


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I assure you, the lift operators have seen much worse. It's not always easy and you didn't hit anything. Backing and filling, to turn 180, inside a fairway equivalent to your LOA was actually impressive.

Only tip I'd add is that I always check the windex, when I'm approching the dock. Current is rarely an issue, where I've been, but wind always is.
 

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In little to no wind and no current... I can turn the boat in a bit more than its own length. Wind and current makes this very difficult.
 

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Barquito
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Thanks for posting your video. It takes guts to show your difficulties. Just to defend double-enders; the above waterline shape won't effect backing performance much (maybe windage). Our Valiant 32 backs without much trouble. Going into the travel lift at the end of the season is just about the only time I back in when arriving. If the yard guys are good, they will just take a line and lead you in at whatever out of shape position in which you arrive.
 

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I was thinking like @SchockT, start backing from way out and get some steerage...essentially just driving it in reverse. But still, I say kudos.Those were tough conditions and you prevailed! Thanks for sharing it. Note to some enterprising person out there: I would watch a Youtube/Cable channel showing boat dockings all day long!
 

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We back very strongly to port. However, this is the first boat that will actually back up somewhat well IF i get her moving backwards at a knot or so. But she must be in neutral for the rudder to overcome the prop walk. Then I can put her back in reverse and steer pretty well, again IF I don't use too much helm. If the helm is too far one way or the other, it just becomes a barn door and stops the boat.
So, get her going astern, then take her out of gear and steer your boat in reverse, putting it in gear only enough to keep steerage way.
If things go far astray, then it's back to helm hard over, goosing her (for just as much time as it takes to get the stern moving in the direction you want, but not moving the boat forward) in forward then reverse until I'm back on my line. Almost any boat will back up like that.
 
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i feel for you. owning a sailboat is like buying a car where the engineers decided to randomly put the four wheel in different locations on every new model.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Big massive reply contained here. First, thanks for all of the responses. Yes, it is a bit of a risk putting stuff like this out there for the world to see. Like anyone, I prefer to show others the things that go right and look good. However, I've found that there is a lot of content showing all the good stuff (and a fair amount showing the tragedy of others, unfortunately), but there's not a lot of content showing the not-so-great parts.

Somewhat specifically when it comes to docking sailboats, there seems to be a lot of visual content demonstrating techniques where everything (or at least most things) go right. I've learned a lot from the various recorded seminars and such (like the Maryland School of Sailing Docking Techinques seminar, which I'll link at the end of this post for anyone who hasn't seen it), and a ton from others posting here.

We're new to handling larger boats. This is our second season with Pinniped. We've become more confident with practice and the opportunity to operate in different conditions. We have a long way to go (obviously--if you don't believe me, go watch the video again! ha!).

With that, below are some replies to specific points some of you brought up. The first is something we get asked a lot, in person and in video, so without further blabbering here...

I was trying to figure our why you kept playing with the winch handle! That is the strangest location for the engine controls I have ever seen!
Answering for the multiple people who asked: Pinniped has a controllable pitch prop. The engine runs only in forward. Run it up to speed in gear but with no pitch on the prop (“neutral”), then run the pitch control (which is that winch handle you see, which runs a push/pull cable to the pitch control lever on the shaft) to provide forward or reverse thrust. Go past forward (with the engine off, of course), and the prop fully feathers for sailing. For slow-speed maneuvering, no-load RPM is run up to about 1800. Full pitch will load the engine down around 800. At cruising pitch, loaded engine RPM can be run up to about 2500 for an easy-on-the-fuel speed of almost 6kts, with room to push harder if needed.

The engine throttle and gear controls are a single-lever control on the aft of the cockpit well. If you look when we leave the slip and then stop in the lift well, you might see me pushing or lifting something with my leg. That's me running the throttle up before we pull out and bringing it back to idle/neutral gear when we stop in the lift well. There is a reverse gear, but it is not accessible. Even if it were, it is not recommended to run the prop in reverse.

The controllable pitch makes back-and-fill moves and bumping the bow around while backing pretty easy. It looks like I'm really throwing the lever hard, but there is some resistance to pitch changes when there's pressure on the prop, so a quick throw from reverse through neutral to forward for a quick bump without affecting rearward motion much looks more dramatic than it really is.


I think your mistake was trying to back it into the lift like you were parking a car in a parking spot. It is very difficult to get the boat stopped, then moving backwards AND turn 90° with so little space.

After you aborted, turned around and went back out into the main fairway you probably would have been better off reversing back towards the lift rather than turning around and approaching it forward again. That way you would have had plenty of room to get some way on and gain steerage, and then just a bit of a dog-leg into the lift rather than a 90° turn.
There were a few other responders who said much the same. I'm not trying to be dismissive of your thoughts here (or those of the others who replied with similar thoughts). Pinniped has a large rudder hanging off of the back of a mostly-full keel (she has the "Brewer Bite" with a cut-out towards the rear of the keel). In practice, she needs near 3kts of boat speed before she gains steerage in reverse. No joke. Getting that kind of boat speed in reverse in a brisk cross-wind with little room to move around while the boat is just getting blown around is impractical and not safe for us. Note that I did not say it was not safe for you or anyone else. :) Stopping more than 18,000 pounds from that speed takes a bit of space. Even if we had no wind blowing us around, I'm not sure I would feel comfortable backing into that spot at that speed. Maybe with practice.

What I was actually trying here (and finally got mostly right at the end) was the technique taught in the Maryland School of Sailing seminar. I've executed it in practice in lower winds, and it works well for a boat like ours. Approach into the wind perpendicular to the slip, stop, bump the stern towards the slip, begin reversing letting the wind blow the bow over while backing in, kicking the stern over when needed to clear the slip boundaries. My primary failing in executing this plan was not realizing the wind had a lot of northing at this point, which was blowing the bow down towards the slip instead of over to the right, which is what I had planned for it to do. I should have stopped earlier, bumped the stern further towards the slip, then I should have been able to pull in pretty nicely. But I do this once a year, this being the second time ever, and practice time was limited this year. I still have a lot to learn.


A free suggestion from someone who trains people to drive things nearly twice that long in much tighter.. and dangerous conditions. SLOW the fu** down and stop caring what people think. You're humble so you've got this :) But if you need to stop.. flat out.. do it. If you need to take a lot more space then slide in later. Do it. Noone gives a ** if you nail that one thing that one time. Everyone is impressed if you dont hit **. My job is not to hit . The newbies in my job try to impress people and get kickedo ut of the industry. The guys who make $$$$$ and have done it for 20 years are the ones who give zero f what anyone thinks and do whatever it takes to do it safely and easily. NICE video editing and work
A good bit of that video was at either 2.5x or 4x speed, mostly because I didn't think anyone would want to watch it with how slow we were going! :) I really appreciate the reply. Yes, I should have listened to myself and just approached again without wasting time attempting something I knew wouldn't work in my head. You'll also hear in there someone calling out engine instructions. I hate to be "that guy," but these I totally ignore when someone is telling me to do something, because there are few people who understand the power propulsion system on our boat. The only one I listen to is the lift operator at the end who was directing me where to stop at the rear of the lift well, and the only thing I'm listening for is when to stop.

I assure you, the lift operators have seen much worse. It's not always easy and you didn't hit anything. Backing and filling, to turn 180, inside a fairway equivalent to your LOA was actually impressive.

Only tip I'd add is that I always check the windex, when I'm approching the dock. Current is rarely an issue, where I've been, but wind always is.
Same. We're on the Great Lakes and in a protected marina at that, so current is not an issue. We don't have a windex, but I can easily tell wind direction, and I just blew it here. I let my nerves get the best of me and stuck to my plan instead of updating my plan in real-time for the conditions we experienced. But hey, sometimes people need to see that it doesn't always go to plan, so here we are. :)

Thanks for posting your video. It takes guts to show your difficulties. Just to defend double-enders; the above waterline shape won't effect backing performance much (maybe windage). Our Valiant 32 backs without much trouble. Going into the travel lift at the end of the season is just about the only time I back in when arriving. If the yard guys are good, they will just take a line and lead you in at whatever out of shape position in which you arrive.
That's absolutely true--it's the underlying shape of things that seems to matter more. Pinniped seems to behave a bit more like a full keel design while in reverse.

Thanks for the replies and thoughts. Hopefully, we'll get in at a reasonable time next season, and will have some time with a more empty marina to practice maneuvers like this. At the moment, I need to figure out some details on our rub rails. They were going to need replacing sooner than later, due primarily to some rot starting in at the edges. This year, the front lifting strap caught the edge of the starboard rub rail and popped out a little rotted piece from the front end. So I might as well just replace them both and not worry about them for a while!

The Maryland School of Sailing docking seminar video is linked below, starting at the technique I was attempting to execute, for reference:
 

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I didn't think it was a bad job. Every one has to take a couple of tries once in a while.

Variable pitch propeller is unusual on a boat that small. Fun. I am sure that adds another dynamic to the boat handling experience
 

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A good bit of that video was at either 2.5x or 4x speed, mostly because I didn't think anyone would want to watch it with how slow we were going! :) I really appreciate the reply. Yes, I should have listened to myself and just approached again without wasting time attempting something I knew wouldn't work in my head. You'll also hear in there someone calling out engine instructions. I hate to be "that guy," but these I totally ignore when someone is telling me to do something, because there are few people who understand the power propulsion system on our boat. The only one I listen to is the lift operator at the end who was directing me where to stop at the rear of the lift well, and the only thing I'm listening for is when to stop.
Just so you understand there was meant to be ZERO criticism in my reply. None. And yes i know it was sped up.. also that you have guys standing there waiting for you :) It was just meant to be a general tip.
 

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Always learning...
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Just so you understand there was meant to be ZERO criticism in my reply. None. And yes i know it was sped up.. also that you have guys standing there waiting for you :) It was just meant to be a general tip.
All good! None taken! I have seen more than a few people with too much way on trying to do things in the marina and paying the price.

Also, I just noticed that the editor bolded some of the quote I had in my earlier reply. That wasn’t me. I think it was reacting to the sailing words asterisks. :)
 

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I had a freighter with that sort of prop, the only difference being I had three levers. I loved docking my ship. I did all the controls and the helm (a toggle) and it was a blast. But of course, I didn't have much cause to back her into a slip, though springing her off when the wind was on the dock, using a cable until it broke, was always an adventure, especially when the cable didn't break. The deck hands hated that maneuver because it usually meant they had to repaint the areas where the cable took the paint off the superstructure or hull.
 
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I thought that went pretty well all in all. And getting turned around in that fairway at the last minute with that much wind was nicely done - you kept your cool and did what you needed to do. From the title of the post I was expecting some knd of trainwreck but this seems to be all good.
 

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A free suggestion from someone who trains people to drive things nearly twice that long in much tighter.. and dangerous conditions. SLOW the fu** down and stop caring what people think. You're humble so you've got this :) But if you need to stop.. flat out.. do it. If you need to take a lot more space then slide in later. Do it. Noone gives a ** if you nail that one thing that one time. Everyone is impressed if you dont hit **. My job is not to hit . The newbies in my job try to impress people and get kickedo ut of the industry. The guys who make $$$$$ and have done it for 20 years are the ones who give zero f what anyone thinks and do whatever it takes to do it safely and easily. NICE video editing and work
The big diference between a boat and the trucks you are referring to is that unless the boat is moving fast enough to keep water moving over the rudder, you have NO ability to turn it or influence which direction you are going in any way. The other thing is that if you slow or stop a car or truck, it is not going to go anwhere while you figure out the next move. A sailboat, especially in a windy spot like this situation, is going to get pushed somewhere you may not want to go.
 

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Over the last few years I've taken a number of ASA courses, and in the process I've handled four different sailboats during docking. They didn't handle the same, but there are commonalities

So I went out and bought a boat that handles completely differently.

I'll put it in the water in the spring, and I'll figure it out.
 

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Owl
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springing her off when the wind was on the dock, using a cable until it broke, was always an adventure, especially when the cable didn't break
I want to hear more about that. You mean, the maneuver relied on the cable breaking to execute properly?
 
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