Mooring the motor boat without a joystick: here’s how to do it


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If you do not have a motor boat with joysticks, one of the most popular “technologies” in recent years, mooring is still possible (as it has been for centuries after all). Here are some typical situations where you have to juggle, whether you have one engine or two. The key is to know how to make the most of the evolutionary effect of the propeller.

Boat with two engines

One of the most common situations is pulling into the dock to fill up at the gas station. Often and often you have to get stuck between other boats, and the approach causes tension for those in charge. If you don’t have a joystick, but at least have a bow thruster there are few problems, but you have to know how to dose the throttle. To make the boat “move” you have to bring yourself parallel with the dock and start dosing the throttle slightly forward for the left engine and backward with the right engine. This is the typical situation for turning the boat, but in this case you will also help with the maneuvering propeller to bring the bow toward the dock. The maneuver is not continuous but in jerks so as to always take advantage of the buoyancy.

With a crosswind

Maneuvering into one’s berth does not always present great difficulty unless there is a crosswind. Enter in reverse gear and make sure to line up with the place, slightly upwind, so that you have water needed during the inevitable drift. Use the two alternating motors to turn you around, and also with the help of the maneuvering propeller if you need it.

Once in the direction of your berth, you must counter the effect of the wind by alternating between reversing at moments
in which you use with the bow thruster (toward the wind) and with the left engine back and the right engine forward.

Single-engine boat: right-handed or left-handed?

The evolutionary effect of the propeller is an important aspect that we will always have to consider when maneuvering. The evolutionary effect of the propeller is the displacement that its rotation imparts to the stern of the boat due to the friction generated with the water. When the propeller rotates to the right, it produces a force directed to the right of the stern, and vice versa when it rotates to the left. Thus, there are propellers with “right-handed” characteristics and propellers with “left-handed” characteristics. Contrary to what semantics suggests, the former provide greater ease for the hull to pull to the left, the latter to the right. The greater or lesser strength of this effect will depend on the shape of the hull, the size of the propeller, the number of blades, and its position relative to the center of gravity of the keel and the rudder axis. Wanting to take to extremes a flat keel, a thin drift, a large propeller whose axis

is placed in the aft section of the boat will produce a great evolutionary effect. How can we tell whether the propeller mounted on our boat is right-handed or left-handed? A fairly simple method is to position the stern to the wind, engage reverse gear, and increase engine rpm. If your bow pulls to the right and your stern pulls to the left, your propeller will be right-handed and you will immediately know that the most maneuvering side of your yacht will be the left. In this case you will need to consider approaching all reverse maneuvers by pulling the bow slightly to the left to anticipate the stern’s tendency to go to the left at the moment you engage reverse (the so-called “tail stroke”).

Therefore, by knowing the evolutionary effect applied to your boat, you can more easily understand which side to approach a mooring from.


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