Better Boat Handling
It has been said that we do not see much yachting on TV as broadcasters do not regard it as a sexy sport. So why is it that we get spectators crawling out of the woodwork the minute things start to go wrong in the Marina? Is it the shouting from the skipper or just the expensive sound of gel coat disintegrating as the boat T-Bones the jetty?
Let’s look at berthing from the skipper perspective, it’s been a great day out on the water, the crew have had great day sailing. Good sail trim to keep the boat moving as quickly as possible and accurate navigation has allowed the boat to arrive at the harbour entrance, and the prospect of curry and beer once in port is high on the agenda for the evening. But its “Harbour Entrance” time and the skipper’s blood pressure is beginning to rise. The crew are putting earplugs in place because the unpleasant bit is about to unfold – “Captain Crunch” is about to manage a controlled crash into the Marina. This exercise will not be complete without a large side order of “Shouting”!
So, why are we so bad at parking and what can we do about it? The short answer is; lack of experience. If we were to look at the sailing activity as a whole, a very small percentage of the time will involve berthing. So in an alien environment where the water around the areas we are parking is moving quickly, and we throw in some wind to make things even more complicated, then it’s easy to understand why the nerves start to fray.
How can we change this? For me, as an instructor, I want to get people to the point where they actually enjoy berthing the boat. The sense of achievement where a boat has been brought into berth smoothly and with hardly a word spoken is immense. In fact the well-executed entry into a harbour will either go unnoticed or you will get a clap from an appreciative crowd.
So the key to success is practice. Here are a few golden rules to help:
• Get to know your boat – know how much space it needs to stop moving. Understand how walk affects berthing prop.
• When approaching a berth, give it a good eyeball – see what the tide and wind is doing.
• Have a plan in your head on how to get the boat into berth.
• Brief your crew, give them time to get ready. Don’t arrive at the pontoon without fenders are warps ready to go.
• Always have an escape route. This is not a completion to get the boat in on the first attempt. If you think things are about to go wrong, go back out and have another go.
• Get the speed right. Not too fast, as you need to stop. But also not too slow either, if you are too cautious, the wind and tide will take charge and you won’t get to where the boat needs to be!
So taking these tips into account, you need to find yourself a quiet spot to practice. Start off with simple manoeuvres and as you master the art, try more complex approaches such as reversing a boat into a tighter spot.
One of the best ways to gain a lot of practice is to use somebody else’s boat! I am serious about this as BOSS regularly run boat handling weekends where you have 2 full days boat handling in the Hamble. For the average sailor, the weekend course will provide each crew member with roughly two years’ experience. For those of you with your own boats and difficult berths, BOSS can send you an instructor for a day to help you work through the best way to handle your own boat.
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