One day we encountered weather not predicted by the weather office. Never happens to you does it?
We decided we had to get off the water as the wind continued to increase. As we turned down the channel into the marina, the wind started to funnel – increasing even more. Twice I tried to turn into a slipway and both times as the boat came around broadside to the wind, we started to get pushed sideways. As we rounded the last pier, with one slip open, I had to accelerate to be able to complete the turn. I told my wife, Mary, we had only one opportunity to get this right.
Speeding up to overpower the crosswind, we were able to come around 180 degrees and get aligned with the slip. Almost immediately, I put the transmission in reverse and increased the throttle. Sojourn shuddered to a stop and Mary put the large loop from our beam spring line over a dock cleat and I put Sojourn back into gear and eased her forward until the spring line was taut. We were stopped and in control.
Because we knew what it took to stop our boat and how she turned in various conditions, we were able to bring her in safely.
I have been doing this talk at boat shows for the past 4 or 5 years. To my continued surprise and delight, the majority of audience members are experienced boaters looking to get more enjoyment out of their sailboats. Most of them readily confess that maneuvering their boat around docks and slips is one area that continues to give them a bit of grief and a little bit of stress.
There are still times when I forget to take one factor or another into consideration and end up bouncing off my fenders a little more than I had planned or I have to ‘go around’ and line up my approach again.
The following are 3 simple drills that I have taught every one of my students. These are the drills I review each and every year, and when I was doing boat reviews for Canadian Yachting Magazine, I used these drills to assess the maneuverability of whatever boat I was reviewing.
The 3 drills are:
- Figure 8 (forward and reverse)
- 3-point turn
Each drill builds on the skills of the prior drill. I am also assuming here that the operator has the basics of boat handling – steering, engine control and awareness of their surroundings.