As a prelude, initially, we went in bow first and backing out of the slip was horrendous. Then, one day, I backed into the slip so my 80 yr old mother in law could get onto the boat without climbing over the bow. Now, with the kids, we're still backing in. Backing in does have its privacy disadvantages, but for all other reasons, I prefer it.
Here's part of the email discussion I had recently:
As mentioned, I back into my slip. Coming along the row of slips at idle, starboard side to my slip row, I turn out away from the slip as bow approaches my first piling. Depending on boat and wind speed, I drop her into reverse to slow the boat and turn, giving her a burst of juice as the stern clears the piling. The combination of rearward force and the prop walk sort of pop the stern into the slip. I then grab the bow lines and walk the boat in, controlling it with the dock lines. Appropriately set spring lines get dropped on as the boat gets that far in and stop the boat at the appropriate spot. People rave about how I make it look easy, but the truth is, it is easy. I just figured out something that works in relation to the forces at play and it takes no great skill on my part.
Now, this works partly because the westerly prevailing winds are from my starboard side as I'm sitting in the slip. So, I'm normally headed into the wind as I come starboard to the slip row. The tricky part lies in gauging the wind, vs. your boat speed. For, the wind will help turn the bow of your boat as you turn out. This combined with the prop walk can literally spin the boat, so you have to gauge that, too. And, on the odd day the wind is easterly, I go past my slip turn around in the fairway and approach port side to the pilings. Since I don't do it as often and the boat turn is fighting the prop walk, it's a slightly different technique and I'm no where as good at it as the other direction, but the same principles apply. The bow gets pushed by the wind and in this case, the prop walk tends to stop the turn, so you put the backing power on later so the turn out doesn't stall.
Which brings me to the turn around in the fairway. I can't remember what the technique is called, but I used it long before I knew it had a name. You can turn the boat in little more than a boat length using it. My fairway is slightly more than 50' wide and when winds dictate, I come into the fairway on the far side from my slip with a little speed on.(slightly above idle) After passing my slip, I do hard right rudder. (I have to, I'm heading for a bulkhead at 2-3 kts)
When the boat is turned parallel to the slips, (by this point, it's looking pretty intense because you are obviously not going to make the turn and the bow is fairly close to those slips and consequently the boats in them) I drop it into reverse and give her some juice. The boat just spins. As the turn slows down or I begin to back up, I drop it into forward again and give her some more juice, (having of course, brought her to idle to shift) which starts the turn again. This is all done with full right rudder deflection and usually takes two sequences of forward/reverse to complete a 180 with me ending up on the side of the fairway where my slip is. It's actually very easy and very impressive to onlookers when they see that 40' boat spin in that 50' fairway at a fair rate of speed. Then, if I can manage to get the boat into the slip without incident, (remember it's not the usual approach) you can literally hear the exclamations of awe from the onlookers.
The best compliment I ever got was from a local waterman the first year I had the boat. I had figured this all out the week before and had practiced it a half dozen times or so. I was single handing and came in, did the big turn, dropped her in the slip without screwing up and was totally relieved because of course when there's an audience you "always" mess it up, right? So, this young waterman Bryan was watching and after he handed me the sternline says, "Looks like you've done that maneuver a few times in yore life..."
"Yep, Just a few, I replied," giving him a knowing wink.
"Yeah, I'll bet," says he with a chuckle.
We became fast friends over the years and to this day I have never told him I had literally only done that maneuver a few times on that day.
Since then I've had many people in the marina come ask me about the technique and have even taken a few out to demonstrate it in their own boats. One fella was pretty hesitant to let me take the helm of his Hinckley and was nervous about doing it himself the first time, so we went out and practiced in a creek next to a nav marker. It worked great and as he pointed out, he got to practice it a few times without the inevitable audience if he messed up.
The one thing to remember is the boat will behave predictably in relation to the wind and the water. If you practice in near or no wind conditions, you can determine a base level of performance with the turn and prop walk wrt the water. Then, as wind increases you will need to increase speed slightly (or you won't be able to turn) and stop turning earlier (because the wind will turn the bow faster) and back in slower (because the wind will push you into the slip) It's all trial and error and after 8.5 yrs, when I experience winds I'm not used to, I still sometimes get lucky and sometimes bounce her off the pilings as it turns to far too fast, etc.
Of course, if you have currents at your slip, that will affect it all, as well and may change from hour to hour. But to me, it's all part of the never ending set of variables that challenges us to sail in the first place.
Sailing is Life,
Eveything Else is Just Details.
I never considered how important the "prop walk" factor is in backing. And, given a choice, it sounds like a slip to starboard (when docking) is preferable.
depends on the direction of your prop rotation, normal wind direction, etc.Originally Posted by kirby
We back out 'by hand' meaning that crew stands on the dock guiding the boat back while I give a 2-3 second burst in reverse. Once we're about 3/4 out of the slip, crew gives a quick pull on the bow to start us turning then hops aboard.
All of this is going to change now as crew is pregnant
I still haven't figured out anything with regards to prop walk. Seems the stern will go either direction, port or starboard, depending on its mood.
I have backed out of the slip without help. Our fairway is probably 60' wide. Plenty of room for me to screw up. What I've found is that as long as I'm out of the slip, even if I'm pointing the wrong way (which has only happened once), I can get the boat turned and moving in the right direction. It may not always look pretty, but I don't swap any gelcoat. I wish I could say the same about the stinkpotters. Every scary boating incedent in our marina involves a powerboat
s/v Soņadora, 1979 Baba 30, Hull #22
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