Backing into the slip
How do I back a C34 into a slip?
Q: Please tell me that it gets easier to back a 34 into a slip. So far the last three tries have been less than successful. Tried going past the slip and then hitting reverse but the wind does all kinds of strange things...I'm starting to think that unless the wind is near dead I should go bow first. We like being able to walk on and off the stern, plus we have a handicapped family member that enables her to get on and off. Any suggestions for shortening the learning curve or does it just take time???
Al Moreau, Dun Wish'n #1488
The more you practice the easier it gets. It's never really easy, but it does get better. First you have to get use to the prop walk to port when backing up. What I do is put the boat in reverse and rev it up till it gets moving. Then, to reduce prop walk I put it to the lowest throttle setting. A few feet further on I put it in neutral and let momentum carry her into the slip. And yes, the wind will foul things up, but after a while you learn how to compensate, to some extent. If the wind is a really bad cross wind I might have to warp it into the slip. That is go past the slip so the aft end of the boat is at the port forward pillion. Put a line on and start backing up using the line to corner the boat in. Keep trying, you will do it.
Lou Berman, C34 #1366, Rock Hall, MD
Of all the responses to this subject that I have seen, know one talks about the SLIP LOCATION with respect to your boat and the prop walk to port when backing up. If you are docking down a asle with slips on both sides and you happen to be one of the slips on the right (lets talk, right/left here) then you will find that even the real seasoned experts will have a problem. Best bet would be to turn the boat around and then back in with the description below.
If you were to go down the same asle and back in to the left slip, you then have the prop walk helping you out. If you have very little room but can go way forward, down the isle of slips, you could get some reverse speed up to get some steerage. If you have tried this, as you turn the aft into the slip, the front of the boat will whip around, way to fast, with the boats momentum.
So "To Back In", you must be going parallel to your slip on your left side, swing out at a 45-deg angle to the slip and stop. Give it a fast burst in reverse to get the boat moving for steerage and put it back into neutral. Steer to the slip and if more speed is needed, then another burst of reverse, possibly leaving it in reverse slowly, if you have steerage, till you are in the slip. This all assumes that you have little wind and current. A study of the wind and current before you attempt your docking will help you decide when to turn and reverse etc.
I have been told that I am "ONE WITH THE BOAT" (don’t worry I am with my wife also) so some times it is hard to explain what to do as I do it instinctively. IT IS A FEEL. If you can’t get that feel, then you better go in bow first! I have seen some pretty bad bow first docking…..master that first! Better yet, as a last resort, get a mooring! Practice the backing in on calm days!
By the why, the boat yard that I moved to this year, Between the Bridges Marina, (Old Saybrook) has 40 feet between finger docks at the opposite slips. Lets see….. 34 feet plus the bow anchor gizmo and that dinghy hanging off the boat in the slip behind us and a three knot current, wow, I better be one with my boat this year!
Capt Al Watson, Kindred Spirit #55
Three more suggestions for you.
- First, if you have room make a clockwise turn toward your slip. Depending on wind or current, you need to go short or long past your slip. When you go into reverse the boat should be about 45 degrees short of being parallel to the slip. When the prop walk starts, the initial prop walk will take up that 45 degrees and you will be parallel with the slip when you get rudder control.
If you need to straighten things out, you can put the boat in forward with the helm over hard with a short burst of power. Sometimes I have come in like a falling leave going between reverse and forward.
- Second, you should have lines tied between the dock and the outside pilings. If you get crossed up coming into the slip, the lines will provide control and can also be used to pull the boat in.
- Third, you are allowed to use pilings as pivot points. You can put the port side of the boat next to the outside piling. Use slow reverse to prop walk the boat around into the slip. You should have a bumper out to protect the boat.
It takes at least one year to figure out how to back a sailboat into a slip in conditions that are different everytime you try to dock. My neighbor is a former Navy pilot who had no trouble landing a fighter on a carrier. You could not image his frustration in trying to dock his new boat. I practiced against a racing mark in different wind conditions. The racing mark was plastic.
Dan Brail, Boomer #1233
Backing is not easy. I've thought of an auto prop but in the meantime I've learned that from as slow a forward speed as possible, I put it into reverse and gun it until I start to move, then I back off to an idle and steer where I want to go. If I need more speed, I give it a short burst, but always return to idle so as to minimize the prop walk. I also like to enter exit from the stern, but I didn't want to leave my swim ladder in the water all the time, so I cut it off right below the bottom rung, inserted and welded two 7/8" ss tubes, one longer than the other, put a cross rung below, right where the ladder bends and drilled some holes for ball lock, quick release pins when I want to use the ladder in the water. Now when I approach the dock, I lift up on the ladder about 2 inches and it clears the one inserted tube but not the other, then I just pivot the ladder out like a door. I put a Velcro strap on the side to act as a second hinge. It works great.
John Meyer, Shekinah, #1392
We have a 1 to 2 knot tidal cross current on the ICW where we dock. We found hand power works the best from a family point of view. But every dock is an experience that has its own story. Here is what I do to instruct the crew. We are going to keep the bow into the current. So if the current is going in we are okay but if flowing out we have to go past the slip and do a U turn. The next thing we do is aim the boat to straddle the slip opening. Yep, that is my wife is on the bow and gets the line off of the port outside pile while I get the line off what will be the Starboard outside pile. This is usually a rest period also and a chance to size things up. We then kick out the bow and Lisa walks down the boat as I push the stern into the slip. Once the transom clears the outside pile we pull her back into the slip. Some time we have too much energy and come close to hitting the stern on the main pier. We found that playing with the throttle causes more problems then the extra energy to get it going right. We are just now looking at some (limited) ways to use the motor to help in the maneuver with the jib winches as pivot points. We have owned Anointed since August and most of the time this is relatively easy. The time has also allowed for us to learn and react to the natural current flow that the motor would have allowed. A little humor. The first time we tried to back it in it took us 30 minutes and finally we pulled it in straight. Now we do it in about 5 minutes. Also the sailboat next door has a big mean looking anchor hanging from its bow rail that juts out past the piles. So it is the thing we worry about most when we dock.
TR Hernacki, Anointed #1298
One trick that I learned from a charter experience in the Caribbean was to turn around at the wheel and drive the boat backwards. You have to start out far enough away from the slip that you develop enough speed to make the rudder effective. And you have to be careful not to move the rudder too far, or it will go hard over and stall. It is best practiced away from the slip. Just drive around in reverse for a while, while facing aft across the wheel. The charter boat captains all use this technique to insert a boat into a raft of other boats that are Med-moored to a pier with "zero clearance" between boats. Works quite well, once you have practiced. Also causes strange looks from other boaters as you drive around backwards.
Ralph Caruso, On y va #777, Ches. Bay/Magothy
Backing into the slip is frustrating. Liz and I do it routinely and it's always an adventure. Our slip has finger piers on both sides and it’s at the end of the fairway. What we do is as we approach, I ready lines on starboard, bow and stern, as we approach the end pier, I hop off the boat onto [hopefully] the pier, grab both lines [which hang over the lifelines] then Liz does slow reverse as I pull the boat along side into the slip. The wind and current plays dramatically on any maneuver and Mondays docking blew the stern past the finger pier, which was difficult. We figure as long as someone is on the pier with a dock line you can get her in the slip. It seems "prop walk" is more "prop twist" as the boat spins clockwise so we try to turn past what we intend to be our direction. I am toying with the idea of a "mooring whip" which looks kind of like a fiberglass fishing pole with one end attached to the piling where you would place a dock line on before departure then on arrival you could grab the line and at least make connection with the piling. Anyone else try this? We've been at it for three seasons now and familiarity does seem to make it easier. Good luck!
Jan & Liz Rupinski, La Vie Dansante #1311, Cape May, NJ
I think your key statement is "familiarity does seem to make it easier". In the beginning, when Annie or I had a poor docking, we always tried (if time permitted), to pull out and do it again so that we didn't leave the boat "spooked". Don't give up! We do have a terrific advantage now in that we have plenty of forward room to get the boat straightened out before we go into reverse AND, being on the Columbia River, we always have the current going the same direction.
John Meyer, Shekinah, #1392
""That is go past the slip so the the aft end of the boat is at the port forward pilon. Put a line on and start backing up using the line to corner the boat in." Keep trying, you will do it. My first attempt at this 2 seasons ago resulted in a method we now, affectionately call "Bumper Boat" when I accidentally used the pilon as a fender... No damage was done to "True Love" thanks to her rub rail... but, my ego was definitely bruised... The dockmaster gallantly declared, "Thats what pilon's are for! No problem!" Practice has definitely improved my style since then!
Jeanine Jackson, C34 #1406, Stamford, CT
Thanks for all the suggestions. I am on a fairway with slips on both sides..I'm on the left heading in..Also our slips are double but I don't have a boat next to me yet..(thank God!) We have a strong tidal current and a good southwest wind in the summer..It will be an interesting summer to say the least. I look forward to trying out some of the ideas everyone has posted....Thanks again.
Al Moreau, Dun Wish'n #1488