Members' Online Book: Coming Alongside (Docking) Made Easy, Chapter 9 of 11

Coming Alongside (Docking)—Backing In, Part 1


Up to now in this Online Book, we have laid down a foundation of the basic skills, gear, and techniques we need to bring our boats alongside in good order.

In this chapter I’m going to share how we can apply all of this to one of the most intimidating of docking challenges: backing in and then coming alongside in a confined space.

And here’s some really good news: The techniques in this chapter will make it so we no longer fear backing in, but rather look forward to it because…oh, OK, I’ll admit it…it’s such a fun way to show off.

Now at this point I can hear many of you saying:

This is not going to work for me, because my boat does not steer in reverse.

or

Yeah, fine for you fin-keel boat owners, but I have a full keel, so none of this will work for me.

And yes, I know that’s general wisdom, and repeated over and over again on wharves, in sailors’ bars, and on the forums, but it’s just…dead…wrong.

Sure, some boats are easier to back in than others—our boat with her long fin keel and skeg rudder is about middle of the pack in difficulty—but if you shelve your scepticism, read this chapter and the next, watch the video—yes, we have visual aids—and commit to a bit of practice, you will be able to back your boat into confined spaces.

And yes, even with a crosswind.

As usual, I’m assuming no bow thruster. With one, much of the next two chapters won’t apply since backing in with a bow thruster is simply a matter of moving the bow back and forth with thruster bursts to steer the boat and is very easy. That said, thrusters do break, and many that are fitted to yachts are too weak to do their job properly when it’s blowing, so these techniques will still be useful.

Revision

Before we get into the details, it’s good to know that backing in well is simply a matter of applying the basic skills we have already learned in this Online Book, so I would strongly recommend, particularly since it’s been five months, rereading at least this chapter: Coming Alongside (Docking)—Manoeuvring in Close Quarters.

Please make sure that you are absolutely clear on:

  • Prop walk
  • Prop wash
  • And how we use them to put our boats where we want them.

(I will use, but not explain, these terms in this chapter.)

And if you are new here, please read the entire Online Book—it will only take you 30 minutes or so.

Those who have not done their homework before preceding with this chapter will receive ten demerits and have detention for a week…oops, my English school background is showing. Seriously, do whatever you want, but you will find this chapter a lot easier to understand after a bit of revision—I know I had to do just that before writing it.

Enough finger wagging, now I’m going to share two simple keys to backing in like a pro:

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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