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Sorry if this has already been covered, I did a little bit of searching and didn't really find anything that answered my question.

I have been sailing for a few years now, but it has always been as crew or on a Laser/Hobie Bravo. Well now I have a San Juan 24 with a 7.5 outboard on it. My first time out of the marina was a disaster! Long story short I tried to back out of the slip but the motor died, in trying to get it re-started I knocked the tiller the wrong direction and we wound backwards and pushed up against the boats on the other dock. Luckily I had a crew to keep me from making contact with any boats and a guy from my dock was able to throw me a line to get pulled back in.

Ever since then I have been walking my boat out, slowly swinging the stern around, pulling the bow clear of my slip, pushing the bow off as I get in and taking off. It's simple and stress free, but I kind of feel like it is cheating.

I guess my quetion is this: if I want to get comfortable in reverse, where should I practice? I have thrown the engine in reverse on Puget Sound, but that doesn't really do much for me since I don't have any landmarks/obstacles to navigate around. I also don't really want to practice in my slip area since I am not comfortable. Also, since it is an outboard should I steer with the outboard rather than the tiller? I use the tiller when moving forward, but worry that it won't be as responsive in reverse...

Sorry for the long drawn out question, but I really feel like I need to get comfortable with reverse for days when the wind/current make leaving and returning to the dock less than easy.
 

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When I had my 25 footer with 8hp I used to put it in reverse and keep one hand in the outboard and one hand on the tiller. If I needed to turn on a dime I would actually turn the outboard to assist and would be able to squeeze into spots I wouldn't dare now with my inboard.

If you need to practice I would just find a protected spot that is as open as you can find but I think as long as you are careful, the more times you actually back in and out of your slip the better you will become at it and soon it will be as easy as backing out your car - especially with a boat that has an outboard
 

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...I guess my quetion is this: if I want to get comfortable in reverse, where should I practice? I have thrown the engine in reverse on Puget Sound, but that doesn't really do much for me since I don't have any landmarks/obstacles to navigate around. I also don't really want to practice in my slip area since I am not comfortable. Also, since it is an outboard should I steer with the outboard rather than the tiller? I use the tiller when moving forward, but worry that it won't be as responsive in reverse...
Are there any public docks/piers in your area -- the type where folks can tie alongside temporarily to load/off-load passengers and gear? Or a fuel dock that doesn't get much business on weekdays? Or a ramp with a floating dock alongside? If so, try your docking practice there when no one else is around.

As for using the outboard or the tiller: I would try first to just leave the outboard locked on centerline, and steer the boat only with the tiller. Normally, a spade or transom hung rudder will work very well in reverse too.

The trick is to turn around and face aft as you're motoring in reverse. Turn the tiller so that the leading edge (while going astern, i.e. the edge that is usually the trailing edge) of the rudder is pointing in the direction that you want to go.

In other words, when facing aft and going astern, if you want the boat to turn to starboard, deflect the tiller to port. Try this out in some open but protected water. I think you will be surprised how responsive and easy it is to drive around in reverse while steering with a spade rudder.

When you try backing out of the slip, just remember that the bow will usually swing the opposite direction from the stern. So you want to back out straight initially, then cut hard when you know the bow will clear the dock pilings and other boats. Cross winds and currents may require you to counteract at times.

If you are in an especially tight spot, you may need the directed thrust of the outboard too, but that can get more complicated, so try using only the tiller at first.
 

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One of None
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Some people have actually made a "tie rod" to steer the outboard Parallel with the rudder. The problems your having is one of the reasons I got a larger boat with a inboard diesel and wheel steering.
 

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Some people have actually made a "tie rod" to steer the outboard Parallel with the rudder. The problems your having is one of the reasons I got a larger boat with a inboard diesel and wheel steering.
In 99% of cases backing out a small boat with an outboard is going to be a lot easier than backing out a larger with an inboard.
 

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Mines an inboard w/ wheel and the first time I practiced backing I found a dead fish floating on the surface and practiced backing to it. He was already dead so no worries there, and I couldn't hit him hard enough to damage the hull. Worked for me...:D
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the replies. Sounds like a matter of practice makes perfect. I think I am just a little gun shy after my first attempt... time to lose th training wheels I guess!
 

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Practice does make perfect. I have a 28' boat with a fin keel and an inboard engine, and I forced myself to back into my slip at every return when I first got her. At first the prop walk baffled me and I had a hard time judging direction, distance and speed; but now I can park her on a dime in reverse.

On Wednesday this week as I left the dock (pulling out forward, of course), one of my fenders caught on something and pulled loose, falling into the water. Without even thinking about it I popped her into reverse, backed her into a neighboring slip where the current had taken the fender, hooked it and pulled the fender aboard. Then I noticed that I had backed my boat into a much narrower slip than mine -- maybe only two feet of clearance on each side of the boat at most. And I hadn't even noticed.

Keep at it and don't let your first experience shake you. You'll get it figured out!
 

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One of None
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In 99% of cases backing out a small boat with an outboard is going to be a lot easier than backing out a larger with an inboard.
whatever, :rolleyes: I'm not getting a smaller boat! PITA reaching over the transom, forward reverse, neutral, tiller, rudder, Looking forward, looking aft, wakes nearly tossing you out of the boat. eh how i miss my hunter 23? NOT! :D
 

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go find a buoy or beacon with enough depth around it to come at it from all directions. Practice backing up to it until you can touch it with a boat hook. This is a good exercise with any new-to-you boat before trying to dock it. There is a lot less to bump into out there in the middle of the water than in a marina.

doing a few figure 8's is instructive too
 

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Take your time while you practice, but remember, it's the rudder's movement through the water that allows it to steer. DONT GO TOO SLOW or you wont have enough control.
 

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Momentum, current, and wind conditions. All of these factors affect your ability to maneuver in reverse on your small boat. Learn to handle her in reverse, steer with the tiller, lock your outboard, if you can, to go straight. Instead of going sailing for a day, go backing for a day. Take someone with who can help, and constructively criticize your learning curve. If you do this for 5-6 hours, your confidence in your own ability will be greater than most others. good luck
 

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I taught a friend to gain confidence on backing up his boat in different conditions by taking a gallon plastic milk jug and putting a string and weight on it to help keep it from blowing about the water and tossing it overboard in the middle of a safe area. That became the target. we then proceeded to back up to it, with the goal of stopping right before touching, from downwind, upwind and cross wind on both sides. I then had him practice doing circles, then hard squares around it, so he'd be affected by all wind conditions at the same time. after playing this game for 4 weekends, he got really good. he can now get his boat in/out of anything he needs to as he understands how his boat reacts and is reacted by the elements. Paint now stays on the boat and not on the piers! try this - it may help you too. just remember to pick up the jug each evening! :) good luck!
 

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you can also put out a couple of fenders to practice coming along side them in an area where you have plenty of room. this kind of practice is called rubber docking. it helps to get a feel of how a new boat handles.
 

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i also have a san juan 24 (and the motor died the first time i backed out also)but when motoring in reverse the rudder tends to go to one side and make it hard to manuver. also the san juan 24 dosent have a good turning radius when in reverse so what i do is keep the tiller in between my legs to keep it straight and i steer with the motor in reverse.
 

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I used to do the same thing, but only because the reverse on my first outboard was broken :/

Once I got an outboard with a reverse, I did the same thing a few times as far as plowing into other boats (luckily all my neighboring slips are for deadbeat boats, so nobody cared that I smacked into them)

OK SO, back to the subject....

Like samhamt said, keep your hand on the tiller because it will want to swing. Push the tiller towards what you want to get away from. IE if you're backing towards another boat, push the tiller towards it. Yah, I know, totally counter intuitive right?

Also burst your throttle. Your boat weighs a lot, so once it's moving in a direction you want you don't need to keep the throttle hammered to keep it moving.

I see other folks saying take it out somewhere safe and practice. All good advice too.
 

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I sail frequently on a Pearson 26. Whenever I back out using the outboard, I always have the tiller held straight, and I steer with the outboard only. Going forward, I center the outboard and then steer with the tiller.

During the process, I make sure that the throttle is high enough, so the outboard doesn't quit.
 
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