I took a walk on the docks yesterday afternoon and experienced something I haven’t felt in about a year. A warm wind coming out of the North. It reminded me that summer is over, and some of the “close quarters” docking and motoring techniques I have relied on all summer might now get me into trouble. Actually, it’s not the techniques themselves, more the fact that techniques need to be adjusted for conditions. This was reinforced this morning, when we again had wind from the North. This time, I watched an experienced skipper back out of a slip and nearly get driven by the wind into a boat on the far side of the fairway. All summer he had been backing into a wind. This time, he was backing with the wind and failed to adjust his LOT. Made me think … maybe it’s time for a quick refresher on LOT. Always start by checking conditions … wind … boat location … obstacles … dock lines … etc.
Location … draw an imaginary line down the middle of the fairway and try to place the boat on the windward side of that line. In the case of today, the skipper would have needed to make the turn.
Orientation … generally, it’s a good idea to get the bow pointed slightly to windward. That way, while the boat is transitioning from “backwards to frontwards” momentum, the wind will tend to straighten the boat out.
Transition … what are the steps to follow to go from “backwards to frontwards?” It might look like this
• Go to neutral
• Straighten the rudder
• Shift to forward at low RPM to stop the boat and let the bow “blow down”
• Throttle up to a safe fairway speed
Most years, there are four to six weeks of unbelievable San Francisco Bay weather between the “first storm” of the fall, and the onset of winter storms. We typically see the first storm right about the last week of September. It came through last week. The winter storms begin to hit about the middle of November. In between, the sailing is phenomenal! There is enough breeze to have a great time and its warm enough for shirt sleeves (sometimes less).
Get out there and enjoy this very fleeting time of San Francisco Bay sailing! Just remember to adjust your “close quarters skills” for the actual conditions, not what we have experienced all summer.