Practice, Practice, Practice!
Summer is coming and the wind is starting to blow through the marina. When was the last time you practiced leaving and returning to the slip in more than a couple of knots of wind? Very rarely, we see people plan a whole day for docking & motoring practice, but what sometimes makes more sense is to plan an hour or two at the beginning of your day when you are going sailing. It’s hard to focus on real practice when you come back exhausted from an exciting day on the bay. If you spend the first hour after leaving the slip practicing in various empty slips around the marina, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your motoring skills improve. You’ll also find that you get a much better feel for the handling characteristics of each boat here in the safety of your home marina, before you get in close quarters somewhere else, like Angel Island or Sam’s!
In particular, pay attention to the acronym you learned in Basic Coastal Cruising, L.O.T. A common mistake when leaving downwind slips is to get to the planned (L)ocation, but not get the boat (O)riented in the correct direction before making your (T)ransition to forward. If you get out into the fairway and find that you are still pointed toward your slip, it is usually a good idea to go straight back in and try again. Use your prop-walk and steering to back until your bow is pointed down the fairway before you change gears! When you change direction, do it with a little authority rather than allowing the prevailing wind to blow your bow back toward the slips. (With authority, but being careful to throttle down and allow the engine to idle before shifting!) Don’t be afraid to use a little power to get the boat moving. Once you have steerage, remember to throttle down and keep your speed low in the fairway.
Be careful out there!