Assistants against wind and currents
Just as distance sensors and rear-view cameras have revolutionized and simplified parking in cars, bow and stern thrusters and joysticks have had a similar effect in boats. But things which are automatic in a car should be checked over in a yacht before every harbor maneuver. For example, is the fuse in the control panel pressed, and is the on light of the bow thruster lit up on the control unit? A quick check of the bow thruster by way of a short press of the buttons to port and starboard gives reassurance. The same procedure applies to the stern thrusters.
Many motor yachts have a joystick, which takes over responsibility for coordinating the engines and the bow thruster from the skipper, depending on the system. This allows even a large motor yacht to be docked like child’s play, even perpendicular to the boat’s axis. Simply push the joystick in the desired direction. In this way, motor yachts can even turn on the spot and truly move in any direction.
However, even when using a joystick or bow thruster, the skipper should always keep an eye on the wind and currents. Today’s yachts have flat undersides to their hulls and relatively high sides. That means that sometimes the wind might push you onto the dolphin faster than you actually wanted.
Sail backwards from time to time
Every helmsman knows that a yacht is easier to steer when going forwards than backwards. However, in the Mediterranean it’s good manners to dock backwards at the pier. So, it’s best to practice steering backwards outside of the harbor, since every yacht has its own characteristic quirks. Here too, there is a rule which applies to almost every harbor maneuver: less is often more. Full speed ahead and then full astern, steering rapidly hard to port or starboard might look cooler, but mostly these moves simply churn up the harbor and only do they rarely get you where you want to go. Better to maneuver with caution and use the bow thruster more often.
Docking with only the wind
The most prestigious discipline for a helmsman is to dock under sail and without the aid of motors. It requires a large amount of practice, a truly experienced crew, excellent knowledge of the territory and the harbor and a large dose of courage. Those skippers who have mastered it are sure to win the Oscar for best leading actor in the harbor cinema.
It’s better to focus on safety and run into port on motor power. A cleanly carried out docking maneuver using engine, bow and stern thrusters or joystick and above all without bellowing on board is always worth applause and keeps your pulse nice and low.