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Old 17-12-2017, 22:50   #1
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Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

Yesterday I helped a friend of a friend move their new (secondhand) sail boat to a new location. I have experience of different sailboats from small to large. As the new owner is somewhat a novice I had them practice manoeuvring under power for docking purposes. It's a 35 Endurance sailboat with a powerful inboard. Not sure of the prop but from the surface it looks like a three blade non-folding. There was no current at the time and no wind so a good opportunity to practice.

Going forward under power the boat is easily handled, and stops and turns to port or starboard easily and surprisingly tightly despite its long keel. In reverse it's a nightmare! I also tried and couldn't get it to behave. We did not dare take it into its allocated berth at the marina as we weren't confident we would make it safely.

Irrespective of the rudder direction, the boat will only turn to starboard when reversing. With the rudder to starboard the boat turns to starboard in a tight circle. With the rudder to port the boat still turns to starboard albeit not as tight a circle! With the rudder square it still turns to starboard.

We tried reversing slowly, we tried reversing quickly, we tried reversing from a standstill, we tried reversing slowly then quickly, then tried quickly to slowly. We tried with the rudder only slightly to port and also hard to port. We tried with the wheel sterring, and then we tried with the emergency steering which is a tiller directly to the rudder stock. It is not possible to get the boat to reverse in a straight line or turn it to port when reversing. It only ever reverses to starboard.

I've heard of prop walk but wouldn't this be excessive? Could the prop be damaged or the wrong size/pitch?

Or is there a trick which I need to learn?
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Old 17-12-2017, 23:03   #2
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

Sounds to me like the yacht has a 'left handed' prop which in turn would suggest that the engine is a Volvo.

View a right handed prop from astern and it rotates clockwise.. left handed rotates anticlock wise.

So going astern the L/H prop will rotate clockwise, pull the stern to starboard and the bow will go to port.

It sounds a bit extreme in your case... on my boat once I get stern way she steers quite happily... low aspect fin and spade rudder. What does the friend's boat have ? EDIT see it is a long keeled Endurance... does she have an offset shaft?

Most yachts and ships are right handed and if wanting to turn in a confined space they will always turn 'short round' to starboard... ie hard a starboard on the helm, ahead on the engine, then a big kick in the guts* astern speeds up the swing while stopping her running ahead. Then another squirt* ahead to complete the turn.

L/H prop you need to do the opposite.

With my left handed prop I always try to find a berth where I can go 'stbd side too' as an astern movement stops the boat and also tucks the stern in. I dread going port side too with the wind on the port quarter.

* 'Kick in the guts' and 'squirt' are big ship terminology you may not be familiar with.....
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Old 17-12-2017, 23:18   #3
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

Thanks for your quick reply.

It's a BMW diesel. The boat is from 1983 I believe. Anyway from your description it's a LH prop. The shaft doesn't look offset but I haven't seen the boat on the hard to be able to confirm that the shaft is directly inline with the keel and rudder.

No worries with 'Kick in the guts' and 'squirt'...it's pretty clear what actions they refer to.
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Old 17-12-2017, 23:57   #4
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

Did you try getting up enough reverse for steerage and bumping it to neutral? If its prop walk it should stop trying to spin the boat when the prop stops spinning.

Try giving it a good kick in reverse for a second or two till you get a bit of steerage then see if she'll track a straight line coasting in reverse.

Once you figure out how much prop walk you have to deal with before you get enough steering astern to coast in neutral, I'd get some sea room and practice using the prop walk to back and fill until you can control her well enough to use that to get into your slip.

With my Formosa 41, My slip is sandwiched between a powerboat and the main dock with a 15' space between (my beams a little over 12') I line my bow up with the boat just next to my slip, hit reverse to bring her to a stop a little less than a boats length away, which starts to swings the stern around and to starboard a bit and begins the reverse turn into the slip.

As long as I dont have to worry about current or windage to any serious degree its a fairly slow stress free matter of back and fill, giving her a little extra stern prop to help swing the back end around and into the slip. Once the turn is about 80% complete and the stern of the boat is mostly in the slip I give it a few seconds of decent astern prop which usually straightens her out in the slip and gives me enough steerage in neutral to slide her the rest of the way in. A touch of forward brings her to a stop, I drop a mid line to keep her from wandering and I'm home.

The first time I put her in that slip I had two guys on the boat with me and two waiting on the dock just in case, but the boat handled herself so well no one had anything to do. The stern stayed about 2' off the main dock and she stately swung around and backed in like she was doing it all by herself.
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Old 18-12-2017, 01:29   #5
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

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Originally Posted by Ryan H View Post
Did you try getting up enough reverse for steerage and bumping it to neutral? If its prop walk it should stop trying to spin the boat when the prop stops spinning.

Try giving it a good kick in reverse for a second or two till you get a bit of steerage then see if she'll track a straight line coasting in reverse.
That's the only thing I didn't try. I'll let the owner know to try that.
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Old 18-12-2017, 01:49   #6
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

Canoe stern at the waterline, long keel with rudder hung at the back of the keel and a large 3 blade prop. The perfect combination for huge prop walk in reverse. I've been on the odd boat like that - they just won't turn in one direction in reverse, indeed in the worst cases, they won't even track directly astern in reverse..

Co-incidentally, I was in that situation just this last weekend. I took a similar (but larger and heavier 45ft 22.5 ton) vessel out for prospective buyers while the owner was overseas.

Fortunately I was familiar with the boat and it's performance in close quarters.

As Ping says, you probably have a LH prop. In my case it was RH prop so I had the exact opposite problem.

I had to back it out of narrow slip (another boat to port and the finger to starboard) then turn to port in a narrow fairway. Rather than attempting a port turn, I did a 270° starboard "back and fill" in the fairway.

Good article here: https://www.sailmagazine.com/cruising/walking-the-prop
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Old 18-12-2017, 02:15   #7
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan H View Post
Did you try getting up enough reverse for steerage and bumping it to neutral? If its prop walk it should stop trying to spin the boat when the prop stops spinning.

Try giving it a good kick in reverse for a second or two till you get a bit of steerage then see if she'll track a straight line coasting in reverse.

...
This ^.

Ive driven a lot of boats w bad prop walk, LH and RH.

Strong shot of reverse to get her moving enough for steerage, then go to neutral. Short bursts of reverse thrust to keep her moving as necessary.

If stern drifts to far to starboard, and you need to straighten her up, hard to starboard, quick burst of forward thrust...just enough to shift the stern not to stop sternway. Then helm back to center.

As suggested above, you can also use prop walk to your advantage too. If backing into a slip, position the boat so the slip is off the starboard quarter, shift into idle reverse...and she'll prop walk herself right into the slip.

Spend some time working on those skills. I see a lot of people in marinas who cant handle their boats under power (even twin engine cats!)...makes it a real pleasure to watch those who can.
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Old 18-12-2017, 03:34   #8
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

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Originally Posted by StuM View Post
Canoe stern at the waterline, long keel with rudder hung at the back of the keel and a large 3 blade prop. The perfect combination for huge prop walk in reverse. I've been on the odd boat like that - they just won't turn in one direction in reverse, indeed in the worst cases, they won't even track directly astern in reverse..
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Uhm, I have a full keel canoe stern with a barn door off the back and really never noticed that as being a problem. I think a lot has to do with design and weight. I think I know the construction you are referring to.
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Old 18-12-2017, 03:42   #9
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pirate Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

As said above.. Burst of power in reverse.. Neutral and steer then a burst every so often to keep way on..
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Old 18-12-2017, 04:30   #10
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

I don't pull into or out of slips often (mostly side to), but the one time I did I used the method mentioned above and it worked perfectly. Our boat walks to starboard in reverse as well. Quick shot in reverse, then neutral, rudder to port and she did exactly what I wanted her to do.
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Old 18-12-2017, 04:44   #11
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

Ryan’s absolutely right. And keep in mind when maneuvering in tight quarters with a boat that won’t back under power in one direction, it will usually spin the other way pretty well by alternating forward and reverse. The better you get at making that spin tight and controlled the more options you have. Need to back the boat 30 degreees to port and it won’t go? Spin it 330 degrees the other way...
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Old 18-12-2017, 06:09   #12
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

Prop has a tremendous amount to do with prop walk, when I first got my boat she was WAY overpropped, could only turn 2500 RPM and prop walk was like what you experienced. I got used to it, and as I did it became my friend as it was predictable and made my turn to one direction very tight.
Then I got an Autoprop, and every bit of my prop walk is gone. Now in reverse, my Boat backs into the wind or current, whichever is stronger.

I assume if I had a fixed properly pitched prop I would have some prop walk, just not an excessive amount. I may go to a Campbell Sailor prop and try it.
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Old 18-12-2017, 08:54   #13
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

I agree with the above suggestions, but for starboard prop walk, start with the boat moving slowly ahead, turn the rudder hard to starboard to get the boat turning, then give it a big burst of reverse. The prop walk will check your turn and then start to turn you the other way. Reverse the rudder when the boat starts moving backwards, cut the power before the stern starts to move too much to starboard, and hopefully you will be going straight backwards. This usually works out better than starting to reverse when dead in the water.
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Old 18-12-2017, 09:02   #14
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Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

We do the pop in and out of neutral to move aft with a tiny tiny bit of accuracy. My first boat was a converted navy whaleboat with a Graymarine mounted out of line with the keel so the prop was about a foot and a half from centerline. I never really got the hang of doing anything but donuts in reverse. Luckily for me the nearly 40 year old engine gave up the ghost not long after I got it and we learned to sail in and out of our slip. I should spend more time practicing backing up, because depending on wind, tide and proximity to expensive boats I have a bit of a pucker factor when backing up. My friend Tom, a delivery captain/trophy husband, often spends 2 or 3 hours backing his 50 in and out of his slip.
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Old 18-12-2017, 09:04   #15
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Smile Re: Boat only reverses to starboard - why and is this normal on some boats?

Great posts with lots of good recommendations. I have the same thing with my Catalina 30.... and I always suspected it was the 3 blade prop....

Have any of you tried replacing a 3 blade with a 2 blade and seen any difference?

Prop walk is annoying in my circumstance because I am usually handling the lines while the Admiral is on the helm... and prop walk is a grand mystery to her... besides with the wheel, she never knows exactly what the position of the rudder is. So she has asked me to install an indicator so she can see where the rudder is.

But maybe I just need to get one of those awesomely expensive but beautiful autoprops and then I'd sail even faster!
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