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Old 25-01-2021, 08:42   #1
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Outboards and docking

Yes, the dreaded docking question.

I came in too hot (or so I think) on my first lesson and my instructor had to drop the stern line around the cleat and use some muscle to stop the boat before the bow hit the end of the slip. I get that some effort is required, but he really had to heave to get us stopped.

Which means I was coming in too fast. Learning how much speed to use is part of it, but...

(now for the dreaded outboard part)

I thought that I was too fast, even though we were just idling along in gear with the sails down, and tried to put the outboard in reverse to slow us down. Went from forward to neutral and then tried to engage reverse. All I got was a grinding of the transmission gears.

The engine was at idle so the only thing I can think of is that the prop was spinning from the movement through the water and that wouldn't let the transmission engage.

Yet, when backing out, we went from reverse to forward with the boat still moving backward without any problems.

So, was it me not using enough force on the transmission shift lever to get it into reverse? Or is there a lockout of some type? Or what?

I'm going to ask since my instructor should know the operational details of the motor, but more info won't hurt. Also going to ask to practice bringing the boat to a dead stop in the water while under power. Which, in my opinion, should be the very first thing taught in lesson 1 after leaving the dock. You can't crash into something if you know how to stop the boat and the ASA 101 course doesn't address that at all. When I'm at the helm, even as a student, the safe operation of the boat is my responsibility. Knowing how to stop dead in the water while under power is something I need to know.
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Old 25-01-2021, 08:56   #2
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Re: Outboards and docking

Most people new to outboards hesitate when shifting as they all sound like they’re grinding when you shift, some brands more than others. Make the shift fast and don’t linger partway as that’s worse for the gearbox than quickly and firmly completing the shift. A full stop should be your absolute last resort and rarely works on any boat. As you put more power to reverse most boats do not stop like a car and due to many factors the aft will tend to swing around on you (depending on prop rotation, prop wash, current and slight off center direction with outboards) coming to a straight ahead full stop without rotation is much harder than it sounds and the faster you’re moving the harder it is. You should have your route and an ‘out’ planned well ahead of trying to rely on a stop. If you have a tiller steered OB on this boat you should have a fair amount of rotation with it and be able to manoeuvre the boat 360’ rather easily. Practice spinning within the boat length, this is a much more effective tactic to learn. Good luck.
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Old 25-01-2021, 09:03   #3
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Re: Outboards and docking

You probably just didn't use enough force to get it into reverse.

As far as coming in too fast, when I was learning docking I didn't have an instructor.

So when I came in too fast, I'd simply slam the dock or a piling, but my boat, a Bristol 27, is built like a tank so the dock would get a dent or the piling would be missing a chunk of wood. The bow of my boat would just lose a bit of paint and maybe some fiber glass.

I repaired it a couple times when I had the boat pulled to put bottom paint on it.

I haven't had to repair it lately though so I must be learning...... it's been about 9 years now that I've owned the boat!

These days when I come in I grab that stern line on the piling you see to the port side and that works pretty well if I need to decrease speed with a pull but I usually don't now days..
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Old 25-01-2021, 09:12   #4
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Re: Outboards and docking

I have owned a total of 8 outboard motors and have had the gearcases apart on many of them and am on my second sailboat with an outboard motor. In that light I offer these observations:


At idle, at a boat speed achieved at idle, you should be able to shift from forward to reverse with a brief delay in neutral, about a second. For the shift to reverse, a firm hand on the shifter and a moderate amount of force may be necessary, and there may be some of what the General Motors Marketing Department calls "gear engagement noise."


Three things operationally make the shift more difficult or impossible. High boat speed through the water, high engine speed, and insufficient time in neutral to allow the prop to slow down. Every outboard I've seen (that has a gearshift) has a lockout that prevents shifts in and out of gear above a certain throttle setting, but it's the same for all such shifts (F->N, N->R, R->N, N->F).


Wear on the bevel gears in the lower unit, and misadjustment of the shift linkage, can make it more difficult and in some cases impossible to complete the shift. These problems are not unusual and are more common in rental/teaching boats.


It is also difficult to shift if the engine is idling at higher RPMs than it should, which is not uncommon.


Every time you shift to stop a moving boat there is some extra transmission wear, whether the boat is an outboard or an inboard. In difficult docking situations involving wind and current it is sometimes unavoidable. When conditions permit it is easier on the transmission to let the boat slow down in neutral and just shift into reverse when it is barely moving.
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Old 25-01-2021, 09:15   #5
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Re: Outboards and docking

Ley me clarify just slightly rbk's excellent advice. Pause in neutral coming out of gear, then move firmly and promptly into gear. The pause lets everything slow down.

It's probable that you are using too much engine. In still water (docking in a current is another matter), expect to have a lot of your time coasting, and short bits of low power between. Aim, pulse, coast.

Again, within rbk's advice: Find some still water, away from everyone, and practice pivoting the boat 360 degrees while moving forward and aft as little as possible. Do it slowly. Don't just power around, that makes a circle. Pivot.

Practice approaches to a buoy or piling. See how close you can get to it without hitting it. That'll help you get out of relying on power stops and starts, and instead earn your "Damned Good Hands" rating.
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Old 25-01-2021, 09:21   #6
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Re: Outboards and docking

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Originally Posted by tkeithlu View Post
Again, within rbk's advice: Find some still water, away from everyone, and practice pivoting the boat 360 degrees while moving forward and aft as little as possible. Do it slowly. Don't just power around, that makes a circle. Pivot.

Not all sailboats with outboard motors can do this. Mine can't, because the motor doesn't have enough clearance to be steered, and the prop wash doesn't go over the rudder.
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Old 25-01-2021, 09:33   #7
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Re: Outboards and docking

Outboards are great for docking old full keel boats though.

My outboard, a 5 hp, can turn through about 190 - 200 degrees so I can move the boat due 90 degrees from center if need be
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Old 25-01-2021, 14:58   #8
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Re: Outboards and docking

So the not going into reverse thing was probably me being too timid with the shifter. Ok, not my boat/outboard and I didn't want to break anything but I will be going over this with the instructor in my next lesson. I want to know how to stop the boat dead in the water if I have to.

And of course the next class is supposed to be this Thursday but is probably going to be cancelled due to weather. (Hey, a little rain is a good thing!) Which gives me more time to study the books.
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Old 25-01-2021, 15:02   #9
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Re: Outboards and docking

Quote:
Originally Posted by thomm225 View Post
As far as coming in too fast, when I was learning docking I didn't have an instructor.

So when I came in too fast, I'd simply slam the dock or a piling...
I do not think the sailing school would appreciate me using this particular docking method with their boats.
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Old 25-01-2021, 17:09   #10
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Re: Outboards and docking

FWIW, outboards in general are notorious for not generating much thrust in reverse, mostly because they pass some or all of the exhaust out through the prop hub.

But even with an inboard engine, many yachts don't have enough reverse thrust to make a quick stop. IMO you as a student sailor shouldn't be using the "I can stop this boat when I want to" thought process at all, because in all too many circumstances you can not do so. It isn't an automobile... don't use your driving experience as a guide!

And the above facts are probably why your instructor hasn't taught you how to do it!

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Old 25-01-2021, 17:33   #11
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pirate Re: Outboards and docking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob_P View Post
So the not going into reverse thing was probably me being too timid with the shifter. Ok, not my boat/outboard and I didn't want to break anything but I will be going over this with the instructor in my next lesson. I want to know how to stop the boat dead in the water if I have to.

And of course the next class is supposed to be this Thursday but is probably going to be cancelled due to weather. (Hey, a little rain is a good thing!) Which gives me more time to study the books.
I would suggest that you slip her into reverse tick over just as you start to make your turn into the dock and let the weight of the boat take her in the rest of the way and tweak the throttle as your bow reaches the outer end of the finger to slow her down.
Make sure the OB is in the lock position so you don't get embarrassed as it kicks up.
A few practice goes will soon give you the feel.
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Old 26-01-2021, 10:49   #12
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Re: Outboards and docking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
FWIW, outboards in general are notorious for not generating much thrust in reverse, mostly because they pass some or all of the exhaust out through the prop hub.

But even with an inboard engine, many yachts don't have enough reverse thrust to make a quick stop. IMO you as a student sailor shouldn't be using the "I can stop this boat when I want to" thought process at all, because in all too many circumstances you can not do so. It isn't an automobile... don't use your driving experience as a guide!

And the above facts are probably why your instructor hasn't taught you how to do it!

Jim
Not trolling you, but this makes no sense to me.

Basically, the way I'm reading this is that you're saying that once the boat is moving, it's moving and there's no way to avoid hitting something other than turning.

Yet being able to control the forward motion of the boat is important. Not just for docking but for safety too. Not to mention anchoring. Or does everyone just toss the anchor overboard as they go by their chosen spot and wait for the chain to stop paying out and letting the yank turn the boat when it goes taut? And then there's picking up a mooring ball on the fly-by. (I don't really believe any of this, just making outrageously stupid examples.)

For what it's worth, the slip in question is at the shore end of the pier (what's the motorway between slips called anyway?) and I have a limited view for cross traffic when I get to the main channel. It would be nice to be able to stop and hold position in the slipway(?) if there's another boat right there rather than pulling out in front of it and causing the other guy to T-bone me or having to take evasive action.

So this isn't just for docking. It's about the guy in command and at the helm actually being in control of the boat at all times.
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Old 26-01-2021, 10:52   #13
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Re: Outboards and docking

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Originally Posted by boatman61 View Post
I would suggest that you slip her into reverse tick over just as you start to make your turn into the dock and let the weight of the boat take her in the rest of the way and tweak the throttle as your bow reaches the outer end of the finger to slow her down.
Make sure the OB is in the lock position so you don't get embarrassed as it kicks up.
A few practice goes will soon give you the feel.

This was the plan.
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Old 26-01-2021, 11:03   #14
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Re: Outboards and docking

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Basically, the way I'm reading this is that you're saying that once to boat is moving, it's moving and there's no way to avoid hitting something other than turning.

There is much truth to that, because once the boat is stopped, it is much more difficult to control as any wind or current will both move it and turn it, and because the rudder is ineffective.


Quote:

Yet being able to control the forward motion of the boat is important. Not just for docking but for safety too. Not to mention anchoring. Or does everyone just toss the anchor overboard as they go by their chosen spot and wait for the chain to stop paying out and letting the yank turn the boat when it goes taut? (I don't really believe this, just making an outrageously stupid example.)
Anchoring ordinarily begins with the bow into the wind with the boat then being backed down once the anchor is on the bottom. It is ordinarily not necessary to use reverse to stop, except perhaps on a calm day.


Quote:

For what it's worth, the slip in question is at the shore end of the pier (what's the motorway between slips called anyway?) and I have a limited view for cross traffic when I get to the main channel. It would be nice to be able to stop and hold position in the slipway(?) if there's another boat right there rather than pulling out in front of it and causing the other guy to T-bone me or having to take evasive action.
Ordinarily you try to think, observe, and plan further ahead than that. Sure, there are times when you have no choice but to stop, but it is far, far better to time your moves so that you are clear of other traffic, by adjusting speed ahead of time.


Typically in the situation you describe you would complete your turn before or after the other boat reaches the fairway you're in. If you complete it before the other boat reaches the fairway, you would stay to the right side so that the other boat can pass you port-to-port.
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Old 26-01-2021, 11:06   #15
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Re: Outboards and docking

Rob, I agree with your comments with some reservation. A motor can stop a boat, but how quickly is determined by the speed and displacement of the boat. (The water between two adjacent docks is a fairway.) Heading out the fairway your speed should be no more than what you can stop if, at the end of the fairway, you see a kayak crossing. Even if you are the stand on vessel, you don’t want to make it a bad day for the kayaker.

A few years ago we bought our boat. It has twin rudders and sail drive, a setup I had never used before. So I hired an instructor to teach me about motoring about a marina. (Sailing the boat was the easy part.) He had two sayings which I keep in mind when motoring:

Do not approach an object faster than you would like to hit it.

When approaching or leaving a slip, if you are not bored, somethings wrong.
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