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Old 14-04-2011, 22:45   #1
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Backing Out of a Berth Under Power

I understand that this is typically a challenge, but perhaps someone can help me understand what is going on.

Looking for some ideas on what I was doing wrong.

The boat: Hunter 27 with an outboard. prop wash favors backing up to port.

Wind blowing from shore to the river.

Berth is perpendicular to the wind.

I put the boat in reverse and 10 times out of 12, everything works fine.

2 of the last three times, I have started in reverse and as I eased to port, I really had minimal control of the boat. Most recently, the boat was pretty much blown sideways into the main channel.

Is this just one of those things one must plan on, is it peculiar to the Hunter, or is this an egregious form of pilot error?
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Old 14-04-2011, 23:03   #2
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Re: Backing out of a berth under power

You mention backing into a river.. What's the current doing? Running high with spring runoff? Coming from the port or starboard side?
How about any tides? Flood or ebb and again which side of the boat is the tide pushing on?
The tide, current, and wind will never be coming from the same direction or speed every time so just read the conditions and adapt.

Wher abouts in Oregon are you?
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Old 14-04-2011, 23:11   #3
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Re: Backing out of a berth under power

This is in Portland(Hayden Island to be precise) on the Columbia. The harbor is relatively protected from the current. There is no appreciable tide effect.
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Old 14-04-2011, 23:33   #4
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Re: Backing out of a berth under power

I was raised with that river in my back yard (Troutdale) and I can tell you it changes a lot. I suspect that you're fighting a current. Throw out a syrfoam chunk/block next to the boat and whatever it does, you can count on the boat doing the same thing. There were times in my teens I had to evacuate the horses from the lower pasture. The river was about to crest the dyke.

The Columbia R. can flow pretty fast at times especially in the winter months with runoff and tidal conditions.

When the tides going out or at low tide you can expect some flow. >>> Tides at Columbia River entrance (N. Jetty), Washington
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Old 15-04-2011, 00:44   #5
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Re: Backing out of a berth under power

During my Seagull-auxiliary-sailboat days, I normally kept the rudder centered unless extra turning force was required, and steered with the outboard when going in reverse. Once when the forward gear didn't work, steering with the motor down a narrow, quarter-mile-long channel was easily accomplished in reverse.
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Old 15-04-2011, 02:06   #6
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Re: Backing out of a berth under power

Another thing is do not go TOO SLOW...be confident with the boat speed...the faster you go the better control you have with steerage.
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Old 15-04-2011, 08:03   #7
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Re: Backing out of a berth under power

Another option is to have the motor idling in neutral and to simply push the boat out with a line looped to a dock cleat. Hop on amidships and gun the engine in reverse while paying out the line. Steer with your knees on the tiller if needed. If it's not clear what I'm describing, look up "warping a boat off a wall" in Google Images.
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Old 15-04-2011, 08:46   #8
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Re: Backing out of a berth under power

This spring the Columbia River is running very high due to spring runoff. I just returned from an auto trip up the river to Idaho and I can report that I've never seen so many gates open at each of the dams.

Remember that the watershed that the River covers is from well into Canada to Yellowstone Nat'l Park in Wyoming, to all of central Oregon. And this has been a year of extremely high snow pack and a very wet spring.
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Old 15-04-2011, 09:36   #9
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Re: Backing out of a berth under power

Sounds to me as if you're underestimating the current.
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