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Hello All-- I've been sailing a couple of years, mostly in a local sailing club's benehunter 30 - somethings. I can handle them okay in the marina and slips-- I know how prop walk/ wash works, effects of wind, backing and filling, etc. I just bought a Bristol 40, and it handles quite differently from the boats I'm used to. Heavier boat, small rudder attached to long keel has less authority at low speeds, and the boat has a larger turning radius. On the other hand, its substantial prop walk and "kick" with the rudder over in forward gear makes it easy to back and fill.

When I go to make the right turn from the fairway into my slip, it seems like the boat's turning radius is too great-- like I either won't complete the turn and run into the outside dock finger, or start the turn earlier and get the bow into the slip but the boat will still be at too much of an angle to enter the slip cleanly. (It's a right turn from the fairway into the upwind slip.) What I did last weekend, when it looked like I wouldn't make the turn in time, was give it a quick goose of throttle in forward with the rudder over, which kicked the bow over enough to get into the slip. But it was kind of a last second scramble that was a little unnerving.

So, any advice from experienced fullish-keel skippers would be appreciated. "Kick" it with throttle (either in forward or reverse) early in the turn to tighten the radius? Do a more leisurely half a back and fill in front of the slip? Just get better at gliding it in at idle or in neutral ? (feels like threading the needle now). Or?

Thanks,
Steve H
 

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My 37' boat has a "modified fin" keel...So not quite as full as yours. It still is hard to steer when backing, slow to turn and has lots of prop walk to port compared to fin keeled boats. To get it into the slip, I slow down to about 1 knot (depends on wind and current) just before starting the turn. Usually I am in neutral just before starting the turn. Then, I start the (left in my case) turn and put it back into forward gear. In my case this gives enough prop wash steerage to make the turn sharp enough and it easily goes into the slip. Once it is lined up with the slip it's back into neutral or reverse as described below. Sometimes it might be necessary to go back into forward for a final course correction.

Two side issues: First, using prop wash means I am going a little faster than I would like...maybe 2 knots...when my bow enters the slip. This can take some getting accustomed to--particularly if you need to go back into forward for a final boost of prop wash at the last minute to clear the dock--but I now accept the tradeoff. Secondly, once the bow is in the slip I switch to reverse at idle, gradually bring up the power and gradually turn the helm to port to compensate for prop walk to port as the boat gradually comes to a stop.

Hope this helps.
 

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Catalina 400 MKII
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My preference is to back and fill to get the boat lined up straight into the slip, then go forward at a slower speed. Obviously you need to take into account the wind and current. Also important is to plan for the prop-walk when you come to a stop in the dock. So, when I'm lined up it may not be a true right angle. The other option is to pull a nice curve into the berth. Yes, this works when you have a good feel for the boat, but mistiming it can cause you to miss! When all is said and done, heading into the berth in a straight line has better success, especially for a skipper still on the "learning curve".
 

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Making a turn to the right (stbd) with a right handed prop while going forward ... is counter to the natural prop walk. Its the same dynamics as trying to back up to the starboard side - the turn radius will be extremely large to non-existant.

To turn to the right (stb) while going forward .... gain some headway for the boat, and while moving forward, immediately go into reverse and give it a quick 'burst' of reverse .... that will kick the stern to port while the boat is moving forward, for a very tight turn to starboard. The moving forward is the most important part of the maneuver. The object here is to not 'overpower' the forward motion but the reverse thrust applied is just 'enough' reverse on the prop to kick the STERN to portside while going forward (youre actually turning the STERN while going forward). It may take several - "going forwards and reverse kicks" to do this.

For backing towards starboard at an angle ... dont bother. Either go straight back and then forward turn to port OR do a complete 180° in the fairway and then back in towards the portside at an angle with some way on.
 

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Learning the HARD way...
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A picture of what you are trying to do would be helpful...

I am envisioning a turn to starboard from the fairway into your slip, and tying up on the port side.

With all due respect to Rich, if this is the case, prop walk should be helping you. Per Rich's post, you should be making ~2 knots of headway when you begin your turn into the slip. Once you begin the turn to starboard, put the transmission in reverse, and this will (a) slow you down, and (b) kick the stern to port (and bow to starboard). Throttle up (while in reverse) and the stern will kick more to port, and the boat will slow to a stop.

If you are having trouble turning the boat into the slip, then you are not going fast enough when you begin your turn.

When backing out; if you wish to back to starboard, I suggest doubling the port bow line back to the boat. While backing out throw the rudder hard to starboard (as if turning to port while moving fwd), and instruct your crew to hold the line fast until the bow swings to the limit of the slip (may be close to your neighbor's boat, or the port finger pier), then let go. By holding the port bow line, the bow will swing to port, and the stern will swing to starboard. I have to do this to back my boat out of her slip.

I hope this helps!
 
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I agree with the good advice above.

I'm trying to picture this visually, when you enter the slip in your stbd turn, she just doesn't turn smartly enough?

Assuming the back and fill ably suggested above doesnt do it (and I would expect it should), then you need to pivot using some object to assist the turn. Do you have an outer starboard piling that's well-fendered? Or do you have a good rubrail with a steel cap? Then you can use the piling as your pivot point on your "starboard shoulder" (meaning the middle or aft middle of your bow curve, maybe near the forward end of the house?) with a grab line already on the piling. Come in real slow, get your bow in but not too far, then cleat the grab line (now it's your temporary spring line) forward to some handy cleat , maybe even your anchor cleat, any cleat that gives you a clean lead and doesn't foul stanchions etc.. Once you're gently touching and laying against the piling, ease throttle ahead dead slow, and you will slowly rotate to starboard, until you're straight. Then cast of and gently motor or pull yourself in. You may hear a little groaning or chattering of the line but if you don't overload it you should be okay. Be mindful of any crosswinds which could put more, or less, strain on this pivot point/line.

The trick here is having a clean area of starboard bow where you don't bend stanchions or especially your bow pulpit if you misjudge, and a decent lead for the line. In a pinch you can lassoo the piling, but it's better to have your spring line already on it waiting for you to to grab and cleat. Once it works if it does, you can fine-tune to fit weather, current, or whatever may tweak the approach and forces used.

As boats get bigger and heavier, spring lines and well-fendered pivot points (be true to your gel coat and it'll never be false to you, I once heard that about teeth, but anyway ;-) are like the "poor man's tugboats".
 

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I agree with the good advice above.

-snip-

As boats get bigger and heavier, spring lines and well-fendered pivot points (be true to your gel coat and it'll never be false to you, I once heard that about teeth, but anyway ;-) are like the "poor man's tugboats".
'rub rails' !
 

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Or you could do what I'm currently in the process of doing - sell that over-keeled relic and get a fin & spade boat that will actually respond to the rudder. :D

My last boat behaved very much like you describe - would not back to starboard under ANY circumstances, big curve to port as well so backing & filling was a pain. Had the additional problems of a high bow with lots of windage and hydraulic steering which was extremely slow (3 1/2 turns lock to lock) and completely numb. I could get into my starboard berth in one go but getting out required the aforementioned backing & filling, gunning it to kick the stern over with prop walk etc.

Once it was under sail it was fine & tracked well but I still hated the hydro steering. It was just too clumsy in close quarters for me and had to go. I'm looking for a boat that actually handles right now.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for all the good advice-- had the boat out this weekend and it really helped. As for my choice of the Bristol 40 in the first place, all I can say is that my taste in boats may not be any more practical than my taste in women . . . .
 

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I captained a Bristol 32 a couple years ago and while I never got good at it I did learn a few things.

With the cut away forefoot the slightest cross breeze, even from seagulls flapping, could easily allow the bow to blow downwind if you were in reverse.

If you had current and wind at right angles to your course you are going to turn 90 degrees so you might as well expect it.

If you are going in reverse and have more than about a 30 degree helm and you still are not going the direction you expect don't turn the helm more, it is not going to help. Once it is going the wrong way backing up, nothing you do is going to help. Go forward and try something else.

I came to believe that the Bristol didn't follow normal Newtonian physics but more of a quantum effect. By that I mean that once it got moving, especially in reverse, sometimes it would instantly jump from the current state to different state with no warning. Sort of a quantum tunneling effect.

I didn't have access to the boat long enough but I did have the sense that with sufficient practice I would have been able to predict what the boat would do.

I was about to embark on some advanced Tibetan medication practice and practicing the full 72 form Taichi moving mediation while standing on the piling in a hurricane in preparation but sadly my customer sold the boat.

It made me a better person however because before that boat I thought I was pretty good with boat handling skills so I learned humility.:)

My customer sold the boat to another customer who got a mooring. That worked great.
 
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The best advice I can give is simple and will reduce your anxiety level dramatically in tight quarters maneuvering.

Fit a bow thruster.
 
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