The latest in our How To series shows you the best techniques for moving your boat towards or away from a pontoon sideways
Being able to move your boat sideways is an essential skill for getting out of tight spots. Of course, some new boats now have the option of a joystick which does the hard work for you but it should be possible to replicate this manually with a bit of practice.
Some techniques work better on outdrives while others work better on shafts, so you’ll need to try them on your own boat to see what works for you.
The idea is to alternate between moving the bow and stern in little steps so that it gradually creeps sideways in a crabbing motion. A good bow thruster helps enormously but even without one, you should be able to achieve it.
In a twin sterndrive boat moored starboard side to, the technique is to fender the starboard bow, apply full starboard helm, then click ahead briefly on the port engine to push the bow in towards the dock. This lifts the stern away from the dock, allowing you to straighten the helm and apply a click of astern on the port engine to lift the bow off without pushing the stern back in.
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You may need to repeat this a couple of times to come well clear of the dock before putting the helm to port and applying a click of starboard ahead to push the bow out further (keeping an eye on the stern to ensure it doesn’t move too close to the dock), then keeping the helm to port and applying starboard astern to move the back end further out.
On shafts, the technique is much the same but some craft respond better to use of the helm than others. Realistically, most new craft over 30ft long (and therefore most twin-engined shaftdrive boats) are likely to have a bow thruster as well and where fitted, it would be foolish not to use it.
The Sessa 43 we used for the photographs and accompanying video was on sterndrives but did have a bow thruster fitted.
When using a bow thruster, it is imperative to remember that the stern will move in the opposite direction as well, so in our starboard side berth, a good burst of bow thruster to port moves the stern to starboard. As the bow comes away, either use port ahead or starboard astern to move the stern to port and away from the dock.
With practice, it’s possible to use both bow thruster and engine controls together to literally walk the boat sideways. Nearly all twin-engined boats will turn on the spot with one engine ahead and one astern, so if you thrust against the ahead engine, you should be able to move the boat sideways with only very little movement fore or aft.