A very important part of learning to sail yachts, which will be covered at sailing school, is learning how to handle a yacht when under power. It’s all part of learning to cruise. Whether you are a beginner sailor or more experienced then moving sailboats around docks and in and out of small spaces is something that we can all welcome some sailing school tips on! Sail training is something you can never have too much of.
Learning how to Stop!
This a crucial part of handling your sailboat – learning how to stop where you want to – either alongside a jetty or dock, or against a floating object such as a mooring buoy.
You can practice this in open water with plenty of space before you attempt it at a dock, by lining your boat up downwind of an object and then try to keep coming to a stop beside the object. Once you have learnt how to bring your yacht to a stop within a few feet of the floating object upwind, then attempt the same manoeuvre downwind and crosswind.
Top tip to remember is that going downwind your sailboat will probably be moving a bit quicker, so you will need to apply a longer burst of the throttle in reverse and at slightly more power. Even trickier is learning how to stop in a cross wind – remember in this situation to stop your sailboat a few feet away from the dock and then let the wind blow you towards it. If the reverse is true and a crosswind is blowing you away from the dock, then you will want to practice applying enough throttle to get the yacht close enough to the dock so that your crew can safely jump ashore securing you with a spring line.
Use the Tides to your advantage
Always arrive and depart from a dock or mooring against the flow of the tide if possible. If you are travelling in the same direction as the tidal flow, while the yacht is moving forward it may still be stationary in the water, and therefore you will be unable to steer with the rudder. Going against the flow of the tide (as this could mean approaching the dock stern to) you will be in complete control with the helm at all times. By using the flow of the tide to your advantage you can approach the dock or the mooring as slowly as you like.
The slower you go the better, as it gives you more thinking time and causes less stress and damage it if goes wrong! Keep calm too, if you feel more in control, then your crew will as well. Sometimes you will need to use more speed during a manoeuvre, such as the example above like trying to access or arrive at a dock in a strong cross wind, in that case having some speed behind you can mean you are actually more in control.
Trust your own judgement
Sometimes you see a particular manoeuvre that you think you may be able to achieve, but trust your own judgement and don’t try and get into a berth or mooring if you think it’s too difficult or unachievable in the current wind or tide conditions.
Feel what the yacht wants to do..
Once you get more experienced at helming sailboats, you will start to ‘feel’ what the yacht wants to do, and in this case try and go with it. More often than not there is an easy and a hard way to turn a yacht around, so for example the bows will always tend to turn away from the wind and the prop will help in one direction but not the other! Think about both options, and then try and go with what feels like the yacht would naturally want to do, it might mean waiting as the yacht slowly drifts off a mooring buoy, instead of rushing to fire up the throttle and bring it back round against what the yacht is trying to do.
So as you can see an essential sailing school skill to have is to practice manoeuvring the yacht around and learning how to anticipate how your sailboat is going to behave in a given situation. Know how the boat backs up in all directions, know which way the sailboat pulls when it is in reverse and before you know it you will be handling the boat like a true pro! Never fear though, we all get it wrong and it takes practice and experience to get it spot on everytime – remember this is one reason why we have fenders!