Okay, we’ve had our Rival 34 for several years now. When we visited it the first time for a test sail, perhaps the most amazing thing was how the boat was swung through a 270 degree spin to starboard in reverse backing out of the slip to head out of the fairway. That could denote remarkable seamanship in terms of the helmsman (not me at that point), or it could result in the question– why didn’t we just turn 90 degrees to port backing out to reduce the chance of heart attacks in the rest of the marina?
The reason soon became clear– our boat, at least, with a newish 30 hp Volvo, spins like a pin wheel in reverse, typically to starboard. The number one thing when finding a new slip was that all exits could be made backing to starboard out of the slip.
We’ve lived by this rule for years, but this year I will admit to having two bad launches in a row. Both involved winds. First, the wind was strong from the starboard side, and the boat inconceivably swung to port backing out of the slip. (You need to realize that backing all the way up the fairway straight in reverse on our boat would take about 3.5 knots of speed according to my open water tests, and I would likely smash a parked boat at the dog leg at the end of our fairway.) To counteract the inconceivable pull to port, I hit the throttle and pointed the rudder to starboard. This worked, but at that point the speed we had in reverse almost put a in the drink trying to board the boat as it flew out of the slip. Ugh!
The next bad launch was the very next, when I really wanted to go slow and provide some safety and time for the last crew member to step aboard. As luck would have it, there were 12 knots of wind against the port side this time. Also, our neighbor was gone from beside on the port side, so perhaps I was too relaxed. Slowly backing out of the slip, the rudder had no bite, and boat turned 90 degrees to starboard in less than 3/4 of a boat length and pinned the hull against the end of the finger. Ugh! And this was with the tiller well to port, to no avail. No hard was done, but I was very happy the port side boat was gone since we were in full pin wheel mode.
Anyway, all this for a simple question– when winds are light, as they were this weekend when we launched beautifully– we have no problems with mixing throttle and tiller to take our Rival derriere where we want it for leaving the slip. In heavier winds, the only option seems to be more speed and more throttle for more bite and directional control, but also more risk for the crew and the greater risk if we “engage” with something. I know there are ways to warp out the boat, but it seems unlikely we’d want to introduce a web of lines to distant dock points in higher wind conditions.
In a recent Yachting Monthly, there was a nice “me and my boat” article about a Camper Nic 32 and how backing the long-keel boat “involved a lot of practice.” Our Rivals technically don’t have long keels, but… Also, I wonder if there may be times when other boats can safely back in tight spaces in heavier winds, when we may not be able to.