Monday, June 22, 2009

Small Boat Handling Tips

Knowing how your boat reactions to your commands is key to becoming an good boat handler. By practicing these techniques, you will have better boat driving skills. Always practice these tips in open water with plenty of depth and open water.

Know Your Boat's Reactions
Get to know your boat's reactions such as when you turn to port or starboard in forward and reverse. Where is the pivot-point of your boat. Knowing this will help you in mooring and unmooring. Also, how long does it take your boat to stop when you bring the throttles to neutral?

Practice Approaching an Object
Once you get a feel for your boat, drop a cushion float or life ring in the water, and then practice approaching it. Start slow at first, and then increase your speed as you gain confidence. Next, see how close you can get to the object without touching it, and if you can control whether the life ring runs along the port or starboard side.

With your approach mastered, practice stopping your boat entirely so the object is at a predetermined point, such as a cleat. Hold it steady long enough to bring the object aboard. This simulates picking up a man overboard and will also build skill in mooring your vessel. Important: When an object or person is near the stern of the boat, and the propellers, the boat's engine should be in neutral for safety.

Next, practice approaching a buoy in open water with plenty of depth and maneuvering space. Bring your vessel alongside without touching the buoy, as if you were going to moor up. As your confidence and skill increases, challenge yourself by practicing all of these techniques in various stages at sea, current and wind conditions. Eventually you'll notice your practice start to pay off when you glide easily into the dock in any mooring situation.