First Time Docking a 43 Footer
Doug, I wanted to share with you my story about how your twin inboard houseboat docking lesson helped me last summer.
I decided I wanted to live aboard. I live in the Charlotte area, but found an old 43' Harbor Master in Tennessee that I really liked. I traveled out there to have a look, and decided to buy it. Mind you, I've never driven a boat anywhere near this size, much less with two inboards. I scoured google for tips, and ran across your PDF lesson, which I purchased. I gave it a good read, and the methods you showed were nothing like what I expected. Prior to reading your lesson, I thought I would be using the wheel the whole time, using the engines for simple forward and reverse power only. The whole "Jolly Green Giant" thing had never crossed my mind, and it made a lot of sense.
So the next day I paid to have it hauled out and surveyed. The owner showed up to get the boat to the lift, and then had to leave. After the survey was complete, the surveyor drove off, the marina put the boat back in the water, and said "Ok Mr. Hatcher, she's all yours.". What!!? Not only was it my first time driving something like this, I had no first mate.
The slip was in a difficult place for me - if you think of the dock as a big "H", the slip was on the inside bottom left, almost to the middle. I had to worry about other boats on 3 sides. Remembering what I read in your lesson, I got a little forward momentum, made sure the wheel was centered, went in gear at 900 RPM, and (mentally) duct taped my hands to the gear levers. While nerve wracking, it responded exactly as you described, and I was able to slowly nose my way into the slip with very little trouble.
I can't imagine how different that experience would have been if I didn't run across your lesson the day before.
In fact, after having the boat shipped and put in the water in Charlotte, I drove it to the marina that would be its new home. The slip was the very inside slip, on my port side. So I had to drive past the finger, and pull hard port up against it. I made a flawless first entry, all the while using the lessons you taught me. One of the marina workers was standing on the dock as I pulled in.. when I stepped off to tie up, he said, "The man knows how to drive a boat!". I got a good laugh.. if he only knew it was my second time and my heart was racing :)
Thanks a lot for sharing your years of experience. I wanted to let you know how it helped me, and that I really appreciate it!
Bill Hatcher, SC