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Sharpen your docking skills

Jan 1, 2003

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to be in control of your boat, instead of the other way around, the following exercises and tips may sharpen your docking skills. The basic principles of prop and rudder action apply to all kinds of vessels, from small pleasure boats to 1500-foot super tankers.

In this article we'll only be talking about boats with inboard engine(s) and one or two propellers. One of the fundamental things you need to know about an engine-driven boat is the way the prop turns. Imagine yourself standing on the dock behind the boat with the stern in (you are looking from stern to bow). When the engine is put in forward ("F" in the diagrams) and the prop turns clockwise, you have a right-handed prop. Left-handed props do the reverse; however, most boats have right-handed props. Of course, in dirty water, it is not always easy to tell which way the prop turns. To find out, we'll do the following:

Exercise 1: Determining propwalk (see figure 1 below)

· Move your boat to an area with little traffic and preferably no effect of wind, tide or current.

· Bring the boat to a complete stop. To check if the boat is completely stopped in the water, look at debris, air bubbles or small waves next to the boat as reference points.

· Put the wheel