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Piloting a boat at low speeds

Introducing the points about good technique of piloting a boat at low speeds in harbors or marinas

Chapter 4: Low-speed piloting in harbors and marinas

Motoring at low speeds in a boat can often be more difficult than running at cruising speeds. The effects of wind and tidal currents are greater at lower speeds, and because the force of propulsion is smaller, it is more difficult to keep the boat on a straight course. Here, we offer tips about good technique of motoring at low speeds in harbors or marinas that should be helpful.

  • With a single outboard rig, the propeller usually rotates clockwise (to the right). This causes a tendency for the bow of the boat to point toward the left at low speeds.
  • Unlike an automobile, a boat tends to respond more slowly to a turn of the steering wheel at slow speeds. That is why an experienced pilot will control turns by turning the wheel back in opposite direction early to prevent the bow from swinging too far into a turn. As a rule, the steering wheel should be turned back an equal amount as the initial turn it was given to start a turn.

Good piloting at slow speeds should be a repetition of the following process.

01

The bow of the boat begins to turn to the left

02

Turn the wheel a bit to the right

03

Just before the bow comes straight on course, turn the wheel back to its original position

04

Next, the bow begins to turn to the right

05

Turn the wheel to the left

06

Once again, turn the wheel back to its original position just before the bow comes straight on course.

Caution! • Always motor at low speeds in harbors and marinas.
This is an important rule to obey and it shows that you are aware of the rules and etiquette of good seamanship. Making waves by motoring too fast in a marina or harbor can cause damage or scratching of the boats moored there or put people on the docks or boats there in serious danger. Local laws may also impose fines for not obeying harbor/marina speed limits.

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