One of the biggest factors for many when considering buying a yacht, whether it is moving up to a bigger size or a first time buyer, is the question of whether it will be manageable. These days all of the major manufacturers aim to make their yachts easy to sail short-handed and of course we believe that Jeanneau have found the right combination, but it isn’t the sailing of yachts that is daunting, it’s the mooring or docking. Here at PBS we offer complementary boat handling lessons during the handover process and offer additional tuition if required, but there are some fundamental tips that we will outline here which will make this part of your boating easier and less stressful.
Let’s take mooring first. The key thing to remember when mooring, is that you want your bow to stop several metres in front of the resting position of the mooring so that the person picking it up has enough slack to pick it up, get it over the bow-roller (all Jeanneau’s have a double bow-roller so that the anchor can be left in place AND a mooring attached at the same time) and secured to the mooring cleat without having to pull tonnes of yacht to the buoy! Discuss your approach well beforehand, taking into consideration the position of boats around your mooring, any tide present, and how the wind is behaving. At many moorings the wind may swirl and come through in gusts, so time your approach in a lull as this will make life easier. Discuss what side of the mooring you plan to bring the bow to and develop a signalling system, usually by holding up fingers (politely) to indicate the distance to go to the stop position. Depending on the wind, approach the mooring as slowly as is practical. In windier conditions you may need to approach more quickly and then use reverse to stop the yacht. The helmsperson should glance at right angles and take a transit to determine when the yacht has actually stopped as there’s nothing more frustrating for the person picking up the mooring than picking it up and then finding it being pulled out of your hand because the yacht is riding over the top of it! You should also develop a signal to indicate that you have missed it if this is the case so that the helmsperson knows that they are back in control and need to have another go. Unless it is calm it is usually wise if you do miss it to start from scratch and reapproach it rather than to try and move back to the mooring at the wrong angle as then the likelihood is that the bow will be taken sideways by the wind. These days you can purchase mooring buoys with upright poles from most of the mooring service companies so that you can reach and pick up the mooring standing on the bow without using a boat-hook and these certainly make the manoeuvre easier.
In terms of marina berthing this depends on a lot of factors, but in general most marina spaces in Sydney are tight and require good knowledge of how your yacht handles in reverse. The first lesson is if in doubt don’t do it. If you’ve been caught out in a big weather change and you are genuinely daunted then most marinas have an emergency outer berth or mooring that you can pick up temporarily, then you can move your yacht in later when the conditions have passed. Assuming that it is manageable the first thing to learn is how much ‘prop’ walk’ your yacht has when changed to reverse and vice-versa. Prop’ walk is how much the stern is taken sideways by the rotation of the prop’, particularly when first engaged in gear. These days most yachts have sail-drives with counter-clockwise or left-hand rotating props. This means that when put into reverse the back of the yacht will move to starboard, or in other words the yacht will try and rotate somewhat anticlockwise. That means that it will be quicker and easier to turn the yacht in an anticlockwise direction or circle. This should also be taken into consideration when coming alongside for fuel or water. So with a left-hand rotating prop’ it will be preferable to come alongside starboard to and you will be able to come alongside slightly bow-on and then when you use reverse to stop the yacht will correct itself and stop in a parallel position. Vice-versa for a right-hand rotating prop’ which all of the Jeanneau’s with shaft-drive have.
So, you’ve practiced out in open water and learned how long it takes your yacht to stop and then how long it takes in reverse before you have real control with the rudder. Note that the type of prop’ controls this dramatically, so fixed-bladed prop’s give best control and 2-blade folding worst, but note that there are some 3-blade folding and feathering prop’s that perform well in reverse, such as the Autostream and Gori. The next step is to choose a calm day and go and walk the marina and study the berth to learn where the best approaches are in different wind conditions, and how much room you have with your neighbour if applicable. Always have an exit strategy, or in other words always consider what you will need to do if you don’t get it right first time. And by-the-way, there’s no shame in asking your marina to fit additional fenders to be mounted on the dock as they are relatively cheap and all of us, no matter how experienced get it wrong some times, so it’s good insurance. The thing to realise when you do stop is that the wind is going to take you quickly, so you need to control the yacht as quickly as possible. One way to do this is to have stern line ready on the side that you are to tie up to, then when you stop just short of the dock whoever is with you can step off the transom, or step down from the deck and quickly secure that line. They should clearly call the helmsperson to indicate when the line is secure and then the yacht can be gently put into forward gear. This will bring the transom slightly away from the dock to stop it from hitting it, and at the same time bring the yachts side against the dock, thus holding the yacht steady. This system will work most of the time, unless the wind is blowing the bow strongly off the dock. If that is the case there’s no choice but to get a bow-line on at the same time, and again a pole on the dock with a hook that the bow-line can be left in above deck height will make this quick and easy, though they are surprisingly uncommon here. If someone is on the dock to help you, try and communicate with them before you make your approach so that they are absolutely clear what you plan to do. Another option if the wind makes reversing into a pen too difficult is to simply come in forward and worry about turning the yacht around when the conditions are more benign.
Ultimately practice makes perfect, but we’re available to assist our clients if some further guidance/tuition would be helpful.