Back Through a 90-Degree Turn Into a Slip. The Kid: His confidence with the Control Max's triple thrusters is becoming evident. He backs straight until the slip is abeam of our transom, then spins the bow and backs in with the aplomb of a charterboat veteran.
The Salt: Backing through a turn requires the same techniques as going straight, with just one little wrinkle. The key is remembering that, unlike cars, boats steer from the stern. That's why I back down slightly past our space and line up the Maxum's swim platform to the bow of the boat in the far slip. I click into forward to check my rearward motion, then shift into neutral. I turn the wheel away from the slip and into forward again. Minimal throttle, simply idling in gear, is the best speed for virtually every docking situation. With the wheel hardover, the stern swings in toward the slip. I stop with a short burst in reverse when lined up. Shift into neutral, turn the wheel to straighten the drive, and proceed to back in as before. Time-wise, it's a tie.
Dock Side-To, Between Boats, Onshore Wind. The Kid: He's bored, doing a Jackie Mason shtick from a Honda TV commercial for its four-wheel-steering cars: "You shouldn't believe such a thing. Da back goes dis vay, da front goes dat vay, the boat goes sidevays. Oy vey."
The Salt: Although this situation may seem like a hair puller, it's not. Remember, the wind is your friend. Here's why: I simply pull up slowly alongside the space between the two boats and let the wind push me in. A little bump in forward, a little in reverse to stay positioned between the boats, plus a little patience, is all I need. It takes me 15 seconds to the kid's 5, but so what?
Getting Underway, Onshore Wind. The Kid: Now he's yawning and whining to his dad about when they can leave. He pushes the joystick to port and goes out sideways.
The Salt: I'd normally accept a push from the dockboy and some fending off from my crew in this situation. But that isn't acceptable in this exercise. Knowing that a boat steers from the stern is the key to unlocking this puzzle. With the drive in neutral, I cut the wheel away from the dock. Then I shift into reverse-idling only-until the stern clears the boat behind me. I then straighten the wheel slightly, backing out past that boat. Clear of the dock and other boat, I put the wheel hardover so the boat pivots around, ending up with the bow pointing out. I shift into neutral, let the bow continue to swing, and straighten the drive. When the bow is pointed seaward, I shift into forward and head out. The Kid got clear in 30 seconds. It takes me…what is time after all? I mean really. Okay, okay. It took me 45 seconds.
Dock Side-To, Between Boats, Offshore Wind. The Kid: The Control Max's side thrusters let him make a controlled approach and a soft landing, all the while talking to his father about a new computer. This is getting embarrassing. Maybe I should play more video games.
The Salt: This maneuver calls for a steep angle of approach to minimize the effects of the wind. So I head the Maxum in at about 70 degrees to the dock. When the bow is a boat length from the dock, I shift into neutral, turn the wheel hard toward the dock, and shift into reverse. This has two simultaneous effects on the boat. One, it checks its forward motion without stopping completely. Two, it causes the stern to swing in toward the dock. The result is a controlled slide that can be checked at any time by shifting into neutral, because the wind is your friend and will keep you from hitting the dock. The Kid beats me by 10 seconds.