MBY’S de­fin­i­tive guide to boat han­dling. Don’t for­get to watch the ac­com­pa­ny­ing video tu­to­ri­als at howto

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents - Words Jon Men­dez Pic­tures Richard Lang­don

In our brand new se­ries on boat han­dling, we show you how to hold your boat steady

Many peo­ple find skip­per­ing a mo­tor cruiser chal­leng­ing. The shal­low hull form has lim­ited grip on the water and com­bined with high windage, the boat can feel hard to con­trol at low speed.

This gets worse as the wind gets up and on good sail­ing days, many mo­tor boats stay in the ma­rina be­cause their own­ers are in­tim­i­dated by the con­di­tions.

All good boat han­dling comes from be­ing able to bal­ance the boat against the el­e­ments. By el­e­ments, I mean what the wind is do­ing above the water and what the tide or stream is do­ing be­neath it. Mas­ter this skill and you will be a calmer, safer boater and buy your­self the time and space to plan any sub­se­quent ma­noeu­vre.

So what’s the se­cret? Pri­mar­ily, ob­ser­va­tion. The first step is learn­ing how to spot what the wind and tide are up to, and then tak­ing into ac­count any lo­cal anom­alies that might af­fect your boat. Wind in­for­ma­tion can come from any­thing from pat­terns on the water to flags on neigh­bour­ing build­ings or the top of yacht masts. Just re­mem­ber that a yacht mast may be giv­ing di­rec­tion and strength 50ft up rather than the 0-15ft level that’s af­fect­ing your boat. The wind also has a nasty habit of test­ing you with sud­den gusts and changes of di­rec­tion or by dy­ing away when you’re lean­ing on it. The chances of this hap­pen­ing also need to be taken into ac­count.

Water move­ment is usu­ally more con­stant and pre­dictable, although you still need to look for any anom­alies around ob­struc­tions that might re­di­rect the speed or di­rec­tion of flow. Hav­ing done your ob­ser­va­tions, you need to prac­tise bal­anc­ing the boat against th­ese two el­e­ments. Even the best of us can only bal­ance the boat with ei­ther the bow or stern point­ing into the com­bined force of th­ese el­e­ments. Many craft are more eas­ily bal­anced stern to the el­e­ments, but most peo­ple find bow on a bet­ter place to start as it’s eas­ier to spot what’s go­ing on and re­act ac­cord­ingly.

The ab­so­lute key to judg­ing what’s go­ing on is to use tran­sits – that’s two items that when lined up, are sta­tion­ary in re­la­tion to each other. Any move­ment of th­ese ob­jects rel­a­tive to each other means the boat is mov­ing. You re­ally need two tran­sits, one off the bow if fac­ing for­ward (or the stern if fac­ing aft) to judge which way you are mov­ing lat­er­ally, and one abeam so that you can judge any move­ment fore and aft.

The boat is only truly stopped when both tran­sits are static. The boat won’t stay there long, so the next skill to prac­tise is pre­dict­ing which way it will be moved next by the el­e­ments and be­ing just ahead of that move­ment with your helm and en­gines to coun­ter­act it. Es­pe­cially prac­tise us­ing the one abeam so that when you moor the boat, you can judge ex­actly when the boat has stopped com­pletely.

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