BOAT DESIGN AND STEERING

FWIW ... my boat is a single engine sterndrive boat, without a bow thruster. We did a lot of cruising in the last two years visiting many unfamiliar marinas. After having trouble backing into the various slips and docks, I know my next boat will have TWIN ENGINES, OR BOW THRUSTER, OR BOTH.

I used to be able to dock small trainer 22-30' sloop or ketch sailboats anywhere while single-handed. When we got this small 29' express cruiser I knew I will have to learn some and practice a lot. So, I did … and still after two years I have issues docking our new to us boat in certain wind conditions.

At first it was expected. I thought that I did not have enough experience and feel for the boat to back it into the close quarters nicely … but the situation has not gotten much better during second season last year.

Frustrated, I took her into a protected open space harbor, no waves nor current, just wind. I tested how the boat reacts to wind while in powerless drift, and while under power in reverse. Surprise, the boat's natural drift position is 30-40 degree into the wind (close hauled) and not into the wind (in irons) as one would hope a well designed (sail)boat would do.

Furthermore, the idle power in reverse cannot overcome the force exerted on bow by wind stronger than 5 knots. It is not possible for this boat to turn its bow into the 5 knot wind while idling in reverse. This effectively makes docking in reverse impossible in windy conditions without pulling a throttle a bit harder which is a risky thing to do in close quarters. Forget about backing while facing the wind. The boat will swing from one tack to another once the bow crosses the wind faster than I can think "oops …”.

This boat behaves like a weather vane facing the wind wrong way. The reason is a fancy looking hull design with high bow with deep concave walls that act like well trimmed sails ready for close hauled action. Another side effect of this design is that the boat does not stay put on anchor in light to moderate wind conditions. It constantly swings 40 degrees to either side, like a pendulum … and drags the anchor as a result.

Go figure!