Anyone can push the throttle forward in open water, but it takes someone who is truly in touch with their boat to execute an elegant docking maneuver.
Gliding gracefully into a docking area is one of the most satisfying and impressive parts of boating. Confidence comes with experience, but it also helps to have some secrets and tips for making docking easier.
The position of the wheel, the force and timing of the throttle, wind direction, and the pull of the current all come in to play. Docking well requires more than just knowledge of the conditions, however. It takes technique.
The Recipe For Easy Docking
Docking well is an exercise in finesse. Here is the three part recipe that will help you dock like never before.
1. Know Your Turning Circle. Your boat‘s turning circle is determined by the amount of space your boat needs to make a full turn. This can change at different speeds and in different conditions. Knowing your turning circle in a given situation can help you know how and when to turn when docking. Whether you are dead ended in the fairway of your marina or you’re working against a current at a fueling dock, knowing your turning circle will help you maneuver with ease. You can get a good sense of your turning circle by taking note of landmarks you pass while on the water like bow pulpits, pilings, and raised outboards. Practice this until you have it down pat. The more you do it, the more you will ingrain it in your mind and movements. Over time, your turning circle at different speeds and in different conditions will become intuitive.
TIP: Props aft of your boat’s transom create a wider turning circle than props that are forward of your transom.
2. Know Your Boat’s Carry. Carry is the distance your boat coasts when you cut the throttle. It also takes into account the amount of force behind your boat as it glides through the water. Slicing through the water after shifting into neutral is not only fun, it’s important to know when timing the use of throttle in different wind and current conditions when docking. Underwater form, the diameter of your propeller and windage all affect how far your boat carries. As a general rule, deeper, taller boats, and boats with larger wheels carry farther. Carry varies with boat speed, wind, and current. Paying attention to all three of these variables is crucial to a successful docking maneuver.
TIP: monitor your engine’s rpms instead of the boat speed to get a better sense of how current and windage are affecting carry. This can help you avoid the uncomfortable and often embarrassing situation of having to throw the throttle wide open in reverse to stop a collision from occurring.
3. Know Your Kick. Kick refers to the sideways movement and direction of the stern of your yacht when you shift into gear. The end goal of docking is to stop at the dock. Knowing your kick will help you get a feel for how and when to apply reverse thrust when pulling up to the dock. Basically, when you turn your propeller, you create a sideways force called propeller torque. This torque and the effect it creates on your boat is called the kick. Rpms and propeller rotation direction will create variance within the kick. The placement of the rudder and gear case on your yacht can also have an effect on your kick. So how can you use kick knowledge to dock well? Keep an eye on your rudder and gear case position along with your rpms before shifting. Shifting into neutral before making rudder changes will also give you more control. A great way to practice is by centering your rudder, then taking note of how changes in propeller rotation and rpms have on your boat.
TIP: Movement of crew or passengers can cause listing, which will effect your kick and the way your boat handles.
There are more components to docking, and everyone has their own methods and techniques. The key is to spend time with your boat, get to know how it operates in different conditions, and practice. The more times you approach a dock, the better understanding you will have of how your vessel behaves in different conditions and with different methods. Combining this 3 part docking recipe with your own knowledge and experience of docking your yacht will have you pulling into marina and fueling stations with confidence and precision.
“Image Credit: flickr.com“