|Posted: May 02 2011 at 21:03 | IP Logged
Had an experience recently (Terrifying type) that I thought I should share. Took the boat out for it's first outing this year. This boat has 2 engines and some kind of aircraft power steering but no rudder position indicator installed. I know now that some how over the winter, the rudders got cocked to full stb. turn. You also need to know that the slip where she is presently moored is only 6 inches or so wider than the boat, the distance between the piers is only about 8 feet longer than the boat, and to get out of the marina I have to make essentially two right angle left turns. These clearances are no problem so long as both engines are running and you do not get in a big hurry.
So, we have warmed up the engines, did our undocking routine and are ready to go. I quickly bump both engines in and out of gear and she starts to move out of the slip. I thought then that she was trying to pull a little to the right, but quickly forgot as I have to concentrate on the 1st left turn between the piers. The 1st mate lets me know when the swim platform clears the finger pier and I put the stb engine in forward and the port in reverse. The boat starts turning in her own length. So far, so good. She has almost completed (about 75 degrees) the first left turn so I put the port engine in forward. This catches the momentum of the turn and usually results in us heading straight out between the piers to the 2nd left turn. Not this time!!!
The darn thing starts turning to stb and heads right at the pier and all those expensive boats moored thereto. Whoa!! Both engines in reverse!! Get this thing stopped NOW!! The value of proceeding at dead slow speeds pays dividends. We get it stopped and turned back heading out between the docks again. I put the port engine in forward again and OMG!! it is headed back for that pier again. Another panic stop and turning manuever and try to go straight out again. The boat goes for that pier again. By this time, we have almost zig-zaged to the 2nd left turn, but I can tell you, I was not the only one scared by now. There was a guy on the front platform of the last houseboat that had the same look as me. It is not a really big boat, but coming directly at you even at dead slow, I expect it looks pretty big. I owe that guy an apology for sure.
Finish the story, we make the left turn at the end of the piers and and as we start out across the pier ends to the gas dock, old Tomconfusion finally gets a clue as to what may be wrong and starts to straighten out the rudders, and by the time we get to the gas dock the boat is acting like her old trustworthy self. 1st mate and I decide we gotta get a rudder position indicator, so the next day, I am on the internet doing research and checking prices. It is then that I find another boater's forum (do not ask where, some where in England) and lo and behold they are talking about rudder position etc. The "Old Salt" consensus was that the best rudder position indicator is while you are waiting for the engines to warm up, turn the steering from lock to lock and count the turns; then set the steering half way between. This sets the rudders amidships and also assuming the count stays the same and no unusual effort is required to turn the steering either from you or the system tells you that nothing has fouled your rudders since your last cruise. Simple and effective and cheap too. You can bet this will be part of our undocking routine from now on.
I am sure all you old experienced boat guys know and practice this, but I thought this story may be useful to at least one other novice like me. I hope so.
1984 381 Catalina