Smart Foot for Sailors

what-do-I-do“I have your Sailboat Docking e-Lesson and my First Mate and I love your docking procedure. It makes so much sense and has made a huge difference to our docking confidence. But, I have a challenge that isn’t covered in the lesson” Mike wrote.

“On my 41’ Sailboat, I must stand to steer so I can see over the coach roof. The gearshift/throttle is at the floor and is only 9 inches long. So, when I need to change gear or adjust the throttle, I have to sit to reach the low, short lever. The problem is that when I stand up again, the boat is heading in the wrong direction. This is a real problem when docking.

My question is, How do I steer and shift gears at the same time so I can keep my boat aimed where I want it to go, especially in close quarters where it is more critical.

Some sailboats have the shifter/throttle on the pedestal, but there are lots with it on the side of the cockpit bench whether equipped with a wheel or a tiller. In all cases, the Captain must be able to see over the coach roof (cabin superstructure) when docking.

The simple solution would be to install a temporary gear shift extension like a piece of PVC pipe set over the lever to give you extra length, so you can reach it while standing. However, on Mike’s big sailboat, the 40” diameter wheel is so large that an extension won’t clear the wheel.

smart-foot-shiftingI suggested he try shifting with his foot. After a few minutes practice, he was standing to steer and had his right foot shifting gears and adjusting the throttle without losing sight of the dock.

At first, he was concerned about pushing the throttle too far, but soon realized that his 41’ sailboat is so heavy, that a short burst of over revving was insignificant.

smart-toe-slowingWhen a light 16’ fishing boat is over revved, it will jump onto a dock. When a heavy sailboat is temporarily over revved, nothing happens. If you do push the throttle too far, just pull it back with your toe—no change, no panic.

Just think—If, only ten years ago, someone had told you that you’d be typing on a cell phone with both thumbs, you’d have thought he was smoking some “wacky tobacky”. But, we’re all doing it.

So, like Mike, if you’ve taught your thumbs to type on your smart phones, you can teach your right foot and/or toes to push and pull your shifter/throttle on your sailboat, so that you can keep your eyes on the approaching dock.

Mike tried it and Mike liked it. Try it. You’ll like it too.

Leave your comments below.

Doug Dawson

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