MANEUVERING IN CLOSE QUARTERS…

Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, much of that comes from bad judgment. – unknown. Keith invited me to go on an afternoon sail on a Caliper 40 that was being chartered for practicing engine handling in harbors. I had a chance to offer some tips to a few novice sailors on the finer points of boat handling and some observations. <a href=”http://shipslog.sightinc.com/wp-content/wp-photos/akseinst.jpg” title=”Gori 2-Bladed Folding Prop” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://shipslog.sightinc.com/wp-content/wp-photos/akseinst.jpg” width=”194″ height=”73″ align=”left” hspace=”3″ alt=”Gori 2-Bladed Folding Prop” class=”alignleft” /></a>First, unlike most sailors who complains about their prop walk, I actually like prop walk on a boat. I think a noticeable prop walk can help a boat turn in a far tighter radius than one without… The advantage of prop walk in maneuvering a boat in tight quarters is you can turn using the prop walk to spin your stern faster. For instance, my boat walks to port while backing up with my <a href=”http://www.gori-propeller.com/Index.asp?ids=1195″ target=”_blank”>Gori folding prop</a>, this means I can turn sharper to starboard than to port. I use this to my advantage when I’m in tight quarter situation and can spin around in the boat’s own length if I’m turning to starboard versus port. Second example, my preferred docking side is to port because when I stop by putting the boat in reverse, the boat will pull the stern in closer because of the prop walk rather than drift away from the dock. When a boat doesn’t have a pronounced prop walk, it would turn only when enough water movement over the rudder – which will always require enough forward movement in order to affect a turn. This translates to a larger turning radius than just the length of the boat. Second, most people expect their wheel/rudder to act much like a car wheel – the boat turns in the direction of the wheel… So they turn the wheel like they drive a car, using big motions to turn the wheel hard over from starboard to port or vise versa. In the mean time, they are distracted from sensing the drift, forward/backward motion, the throttle and the prop walk to work in harmony with the rudder. I tend to think of the wheel as underwater wing flaps that shapes the hydrodynamic profile of the hull. This means that until there is enough speed to produce pressure on the rudder, the best thing to do with the rudder is to angle it to the direction you want the boat to turn and use the thrust from the prop to turn your boat UNTIL there is enough forward/backward flow against the rudder to offset the torque of the prop walk. Turning the rudder to present a desirable underwater profile is far more effective gesture than the actual direction of the rudder at standstill. Turning a car wheel while it’s park does nothing to change the direction of the car. This requires the helmsman to develop a bit more sensitivity to boat’s motion over water than most people are willing to take the time to comprehend. It’s a pity, as it is far less stressful for the helmsman and a lot easier on the gearshift. Third, gear shift and throttle control should be engaged/disengaged much earlier than most people would actually practice. I engage the gear shift in reverse before I start my turns because when I turn to starboard and idle in reverse, the prop walk helps slows down forward motion AND walks the stern to port which makes my turn much tighter. Simple! Right? But our car driving habits die hard on the water and we shift to reverse/forward expecting it to behave just like a car transmission and expect instant directional shift when we shift the gears or else we apply big time throttle to insist the boat stop, turn or go forward. In doing so, we draw attention to our boat handling and under the close spectator scrutiny, we inevitably add to our boat handling anxiety and then it happens: the entire harbor stops what they are doing and pull up a chair to scrutinize your boat handling to see when they need to fend off. As you make your moves, just remember Latitude 38’s axiom on docking: “The ease and success of launching and docking is inversely proportional to the number of witnesses…” <a href=”http://shipslog.sightinc.com/wp-content/wp-photos/sbyra_seqyc.jpg” title=”Beating up to weather” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://shipslog.sightinc.com/wp-content/wp-photos/sbyra_seqyc.jpg” width=”460″ alt=”Beating up to weather” class=”alignleft” /></a>