steer a car, the front tires turn the front of
the car, and the rest of the car follows. Take
a corner too tightly and the inside rear wheel
hits the curb. When you steer a boat, the rudder, outdrive, or outboard swivels at the stern
and directs the thrust in a way that pushes
the stern in the opposite direction. Because
of this, when taking a corner in a boat, your
boat needs room on the OUTSIDE of a turn
– the exact opposite of a car. This difference
isn’t too noticeable on open water, but critical
in close quarters.
Two forces steer a boat while moving
forward (making headway) – the wash or
thrust from the spinning prop, and the
rudder effect of the drive or rudder slicing
through the water. When making headway
in forward gear, prop wash and rudder effect
work together. Shifting into neutral subtracts
prop wash, but the boat’s headway through
the water allows the drive or rudder to keep
working, so some steering control is retained.
The same holds true in reverse gear (
sternway). The faster the boat moves through the
water, the greater the steering force of rudder
effect. When operating at slow speed, your
boat will handle better when the prop is turning. So, timing is important when you’re trying to steer and shift gears at the same time.
Shift too soon or turn the wheel too late (or
vice versa) and control may be lost.
Talk The Walk
Another factor that affects how your boat
moves through the water is “prop walk,”
a sideway force at the stern caused by the
spin of the prop. Direction of the walk is
dependent on which way the prop spins.
The spin gives the boat a tendency to turn
slightly, instead of going straight – and may
cause your boat to lean one way or another
at high speed. Prop walk is more noticeable
in reverse than in forward gear, and more
pronounced on inboard vessels. Viewed from
behind, a right-hand prop spins clockwise
in forward gear, and a left-hand prop spins
counterclockwise. When a right-hand prop
is in forward gear, it will “walk” the boat to
starboard; in reverse gear, it will walk the boat
to port. Likewise, a left-hand prop in forward
gear will walk the boat to port, and walk it to
starboard in reverse gear.
Prop walk can be put to good use when
docking. When possible, it’s an advantage
to approach the dock on the side where the
planned maneuver will walk the stern to the
dock. If you can’t do this, you’ll need to take
that into account and adjust how much you
steer. But before you take a boat into tight
quarters, make sure you’ve gotten a working
understanding of the following techniques.
Cen Tering The Wheel
Start by figuring out the range of the wheel,
which is how many times it takes to turn
the wheel from hard-to-port to hard-to-star-board. Turn the wheel all the way to one side
look through a nearby
fixed object at the background. if the background
is moving, so are you.
HOW TO TELL IF YOU’RE MOVING
Wind tends to push the bow
of the boat off course.
Current tends to drag
the stern off course.
EFFECTS OF WIND OR
CURRENT AT LOW SPEED