Cruising Tips - Boathandling

Going sideways (January 2006)It's no secret that bow thrusters are a big help when you're maneuvering in close quarters, which is why they are becoming common on boats in the 40-foot range. One reason for this popularity is that the units themselves have gotten better. But it's also true that freeboards are getting higher and many of us either are getting older or are sailing with
Author:
Publish date:

Going sideways (January 2006)

It's no secret that bow thrusters are a big help when you're maneuvering in close quarters, which is why they are becoming common on boats in the 40-foot range. One reason for this popularity is that the units themselves have gotten better. But it's also true that freeboards are getting higher and many of us either are getting older or are sailing with fewer crew. My 47-footer came with a bow thruster, and I quickly learned to appreciate it. It's simple to use: hit the button and the bow goes right, hit the button and the bow goes left.

But I soon discovered another level of use. Everyone knows that a thruster moves the bow when the boat is stopped. And everyone knows that you use a thruster to hold or move the bow to port or starboard against the wind. But not everyone knows that the thruster can be used to make the boat go sideways. Here's how it works.

Let's say you're in a marina and the wind is blowing from your port side, pushing you into the dock, and you want to get away from the dock without damaging the starboard side of the boat.

After you've gotten the dock lines on board, you might think about pushing the thruster button to push the bow to port, away from the dock. The problem is that only the front half of the boat will be clear. The twisting motion caused by the keel—as the bow goes to port, the stern goes to starboard—will start to press the stern firmly against the dock (A).
There is another way. First turn the helm hard to starboard (toward the dock) and accelerate forward under power. Simultaneously, push the bow thruster button to port, which will push the bow to port and away from the dock. This may seem counterintuitive, but it works. As you turn the helm to starboard, the leading edge of the rudder is pointing to port. The prop wash against the rudder along with the forward motion will move the stern to port and away from the dock (B), while the thruster's push to port keeps the bow from swinging to starboard and into the dock. As the boat starts to move forward, it will also be moving sideways to port and clear of the dock. Obviously, you need to practice this maneuver to learn exactly how your boat will react.

If you're turning and the stern is about to bump into something, you can quickly check that motion by using the thruster to move the bow in the same direction the stern is moving. You are, in effect, getting the boat to move sideways even as it is moving forward. When you get these procedures and their timing down correctly, you'll add a whole new dimension to using your bow thruster to help you maneuver confidently in close quarters. Robert V. Lally

Who has the right of way? (January 2006)

A useful aide-memoire for crossing another vessel in daylight when both boats are under power—in a harbor, for example—is to ask yourself which sidelight you would be seeing if it were dark. If the answer is a red, or port, running light, you must take care and stay out of the other boat's way. A green light would indicate that you are clear to go. So if you would see a green, or starboard, running light, you can continue carefully on your present course. Tom Cunliffe

Click here to return to the Cruising Tips Archive

Related

arc18-3981

Stories from the Cruisers of the ARC

Each December, the docks at Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia are abuzz as the fleet of the ARC—the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers—arrives to much fanfare. No matter what time of day or night, the staff of the World Cruising Club, organizers of the 33-year-old rally, are there to ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com A sign from outside the box  Rev counters on modern engines are driven electronically from a terminal on the alternator. If all is well, as soon as the engine fires up the revs will read true. If, ...read more

emSelf-tacking-jib

Ask Sail: Are Self-trackers Worth It?

Q: I’m seeing more and more self-tacking jibs out on the water (and in the pages of SAIL) these days. I can’t help thinking these boats are all hopelessly underpowered, especially off the wind, when compared to boats with even slightly overlapping headsails. But I could be ...read more

01-LEAD-hose-leak-CREDIT-BoatUS

Know how: Is Your Bilge Pump up to the Job?

Without much reflection, I recently replaced my broken bilge pump with a slightly larger model. After all, I thought, surely an 800 gallon-per-hour (gph) pump will outperform the previous 500gph unit? Well, yes, but that’s no reason to feel much safer, as I soon discovered. The ...read more

190314-viddy

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta: A Source of Hope

The tagline for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is "serious sailing, serious fun." However, for the inhabitants of St. Maarten, the event is more than just a festival of great music and some of the best sailing around. Local blogger Angie Soeffker explains the impact the race ...read more

SPOTX-1500x1500_front

Gear: SPOT-X Satellite

Hits the SPOT The SPOT-X two-way satellite messenger is an economical way of staying connected to the outside world via text or e-mail when you’re at sea. As well as the messaging service, it has a distress function that not only alerts authorities if you’re in trouble, but lets ...read more

_8105684

A Kid’s Take on the Northwest Passage

Going North—and West Crack! Crunch! I woke with a start to the sound of ice scraping the hull of our 60ft sailboat, Dogbark. In a drowsy daze, I hobbled out of the small cabin I was sharing with my little sister. As I emerged into the cockpit, I swiveled my head, searching for ...read more