How to leave a berth safely in a single-engined boat

Single-engine craft are making a comeback, boosted by lower prices, reduced servicing costs and better fuel economy. However, manoeuvring a single-engine craft takes practice

The Marex 310 Sun Cruiser we borrowed from Wessex Marine for this demonstration has a single Volvo D6 sterndrive. It also has a bow thruster, so whilst it’s perfectly possible to leave a berth without using it, it does make life easier.

There are three key points to remember when manoeuvring a single-engined boat:

  1. Turn the wheel before engaging gear.
  2. Use short bursts of ahead, astern and plenty of neutral so the boat never gains too much momentum – slow is pro!
  3. Look and think 10 seconds ahead to ensure each movement is planned rather than a panicky reaction.

When we filmed this video, there was a fresh breeze from the stern blowing us towards the boats on the other side of the aisle, and limited turning room. Task one is to single up the lines by removing the springs; the breeze from astern means that you should remove the bow line first, then the stern line so you can get to the helm before the wind blows you out of the berth.

With the helm straight, engage ahead nudging in and out of gear to pull clear of the berth without gaining too much momentum. Now, depending on the wind strength, either engage a brief dab of astern with the helm straight to bring it to a halt, then turn the wheel full to port before engaging astern again to pull you back towards the windward side of the aisle. Or, if you’ve already stopped drifting forward, go straight to step two.

Now go back into neutral, turn the wheel full to starboard and go ahead so that you drive the bow round towards the windward side of the aisle. Depending on how well you’ve done the first part, you may be able to get round in one go but be careful, as the bow moves to starboard your stern will pivot to port coming closer to the craft on the downwind side. 

If your bow won’t clear the boat opposite on the first attempt, go back to neutral, wheel to port and into astern again to create more room.  Or if the bow goes round but your stern gets too close, go into neutral, wheel to port and ahead again to push your bow back downwind. Once both ends are clear, keep the bow high on the windward side and exit the aisle.

If you have a bow thruster you can use it to push the bow round more quickly. Again there are three points to remember when using one:

  1. It works best when the boat is going very slowly or stopped.
  2. It pushes the stern the opposite way.
  3. Use it in small bursts to avoid overheating the electric motor.

MBY’s How To video series is brought to you in association with GJW Direct.


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