Sea — April 2002
By Capt. Bill Pike
|Part 2: Patience|
An example: Last year, along with a couple of other guys, I delivered a Nordhavn 35 from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas, with a few little side trips en route. On the afternoon of our arrival in Nassau, from several miles off, the eastern end of Paradise Island looked oddly unfamiliar to me, whether because of a haze over the land, a touch of fatigue, or the angle of our approach. Moreover, I knew I should be seeing a low breakwater to port, but where the heck was it? Should I change my heading? Work my way further over there in the hopes of seeing what I wanted to see?
Patience prevailed, but barely. Despite deep-seated urgings to spin the wheel and go hunting, I simply held to the 150-degree course I was steering, kept a weather eye on the depthsounder, eased back to a tentative speed, and waited. The east breakwater eventually showed up about the same time the lighthouse and the rest of the harbor began to make visual sense to me.
One more example: Recently, against my better judgment, I was constrained to repeatedly dock an old, single-screw vessel bow-first in a slip with a four-knot current behind me. A tricky, ill-advised maneuver! It’s easy to drive a boat ahead into a current and dock her, of course, but docking a vessel the other way ‘round, with the current carrying the boat along, is quite another matter. Normally, to preserve steering control, you have to maintain a speed that exceeds the velocity of the current, or else the boat is likely to spin out of control.
Luck was with me, more or less. My first few tries were fairly successful, albeit each was about as thrilling as a do-it-yourself root canal. The engine oomph required to get into the slip without sliding sideways was matched only by the engine oomph necessary to stop the boat before the bow pulpit pranged a dock box. It was all pretty hard on the nerves.
So I tossed some patience into the mix. Instead of roaring into the slip for the fourth and final time, I hung back to wait and see. How was the boat responding to the current without the engine? Could this response be put to use in some way?
The answer came gradually. For starters, I noticed an eddy effect I’d heretofore missed–it held sway from the mouth of the slip to a spot well upstream and tended to move the boat sideways to port at the same time it pushed her straight downstream. I let the boat drift experimentally a few times, fine-tuning my observations, employing a little throttle and a little rudder. It looked like the combination of downstream and sideways forces was producing some serious directional stability. I did some more experimentation. Cool! When teamed with a bit of subtle throttle-jockeying (instead of great blasts of raw horsepower), the combo of forces seemed to engender a bow-on approach that was darn-near straightforward.
I gave it a try and ultimately nestled the boat into the slip with such understated aplomb, I was forced to do the deed a couple more times for good measure. Satisfaction City? You bet. Patience can get you there, just about every time.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.