Practicing and knowing how your Mercury-powered boat reacts to your commands is key to becoming an expert boat handler. By constantly practicing these techniques, you will soon be attuned to your vessel, which leads to greater boat driving skill. Always practice these tips in open water with plenty of depth and manoeuvering space.
- Get to know your boat’s unique reactions to your commands when you turn to port or starboard in forward and reverse. To do this effectively you need to know where the pivot-point of your boat is? Essentially it is the centre of the turning circle, or the point around which the boat pivots. Normally the drag (above and below the waterline) moves the pivot point from the theoretical location at the stern of the boat where the Mercury engine is, to a point that is approximately one half to one third of the boat length ahead of the transom. It varies because all boats are different, all boat hulls are different, all boat superstructures are different and sea and weather conditions vary. Knowing this will help you in mooring and unmooring. Also, you need to know how long does it take your boat to stop when you bring the throttles to neutral?
- Once you get a feel for your boat, drop a cushion float or life ring in the water, and then practice approaching it. Start slow at first, and then increase your speed as you gain confidence. Next, see how close you can get to the object without touching it, and if you can control whether the life ring runs along the port or starboard side.
- With your approach mastered, practice stopping your boat entirely so the object is at a predetermined point, such as a cleat. Hold it steady long enough to bring the object aboard. This simulates picking up a man overboard and will also build skill in mooring your vessel.
Important: When an object or person is near the stern of the boat, and the propeller(s), ensure that the boat’s Mercury engine is in neutral for safety.
- Next, practice approaching a buoy in open water with plenty of depth and manoeuvering space. Bring your vessel alongside without touching the buoy, as if you were going to moor up.
As your confidence and skill increases, challenge yourself by practicing all of these techniques in various – but safe – sea, current and wind conditions. Eventually you’ll notice your practice start to pay off when you glide easily into the dock in any mooring situation.