Monday, March 3, 2014

Practice, Frustration, Practice, Practice

Sorry about the sparse posts recently, but it has been a very busy week. My wife finally came back to Florida so we could move the boat on to Georgia before the Florida tax man (envision grim reaper with a bank vault) comes to pay us a visit.

If you've read much of my ramblings, you know that my wife and I have fairly limited experience when it comes to boats large enough to live aboard.  Quite frankly, maneuvering a 38 foot long by almost 21.5 foot wide boat (that I've sunk that much money pun intended) has had me a bit nervous.  But as I've mentioned before, we need to move the boat.  Now that the engines are both finally back together, I scheduled a lesson with the sole intention of practicing docking.

I had the captain we hired to help us move the boat from Daytona to Palm Coast come over one morning so we could spend a couple hours practicing before I had to go to work.  We started off doing touch and goes against a face dock and that went very well.  I then practiced maneuvering into a slip at the far end of the marina and that went OK too.  Then, about the time we went to practice at my assigned slip, some wind kicked up a bit and everything went downhill pretty fast.

The wind would keep blowing the bow of the boat around while I was backing in and I just wasn't "getting" how to bring the boat up to the upwind dock.  I was getting rather frustrated. We ended up stopping the lesson about that point and I was feeling pretty down about the whole thing.  I can land a small airplane on a runway the locals call "the bike path" in a 15 knot cross wind, but I couldn't seem to get the boat where I wanted in half that amount of wind.

After thinking about it a bit, it donned on me that the physics of what I was trying to do was pretty much impossible.  I don't have bow thrusters on the boat so any cross wind will blow the bow and there isn't really anything I, or anyone else, can do to stop it. This made me feel a bit better...but in the end I still need to know how to put a boat on a dock in more challenging situations, so I scheduled another lesson. Unfortunately the first captain wasn't available, but he did hook me up with another captain that could help.  As it turned out, this was actually a good thing.  Getting a second perspective on the situation helped me realize the error in my approach to the problem. I think it helped that this new captain was also a pilot so he could put things in flying terms that made a couple concepts "click faster" for me.

During this second lesson, the wind even cooperated a bit.  It was blowing about the same speed but the opposite direction...which replicated the issue I had at my slip over at an empty slip at the far end of the marina.  So, I was able to spend a fair amount of time maneuvering the boat and overcoming what had frustrated me a few days earlier.

I now have a much better "feel" for how the boat will react in different conditions.  As with many things, all it takes is practice...and I'm working on it.  I feel much better about maneuvering the boat when we take off for Georgia in a few days.


  1. A number of years ago when I lived in WI I surveyed a 42' powerboat for guy who owned a chain of Dominos pizzas. The boat's name was Pizza Queen. Anyhow, I digress. It was his first boat and he asked me if I would give him some boat handling lessons. The easiest way to avoid any degree of damage was to anchor some milk jugs in a pattern roughly ressembling a slip. Well, the anchor lines didn't last long (I used thin line so it would not foul the props) nor did the milk jugs. But he was determined and before the day was over he was no longer dangerous, but I was a nervous wreck. You'll get there - practise practise practise.


    1. The milk jug idea is a clever one...I was thinking about throwing out a couple fenders but couldn't figure out a good way to anchor them without the risk of fouling a prop. I was thinking just maneuvering the boat to "touch" the fender from all sides would be a good way to practice.

      If anything, I'm probably over cautious so I don't think anyone ever thought of me as fact I think comments that fiberglass is pretty hard stuff and most docks/slips have bumpers were made in response to my being rather timid about the boat touching anything. ;-)

      In the end it was all good, and since then my wife and others have been complimentary about my ability to handle the boat so the practice is paying off. Hope your nerves have recovered.

  2. Okay, so I can't spell practice!

    1. I think that is an acceptable way for the English to spell it...yeah, let's stick to that story. ;-)

      If it weren't for spell check and my wife occasionally editing my posts, you would actually know how bad I am as well.