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Steering in reverse

What is the secret to stearing a narrowboat in reverse? I find that before my boat makes any headway (and hence steering) in reverse, the paddle wheel effect tends to take over and pivot the boat across the canal.

Asked by: Clive Neale  | 1.21pm, Thursday 22 April

WW says:

Some narrowboats steer better than others in reverse but most are not very good. This is because the propeller is pushing the water down the sides of the boat and not past the rudder. In this case, the rudder can only act as a deflector which is less effective than directing the propeller flow one way or the other as it does in forward.
If the boat always swings in the same direction, it could be the paddle effect in which case, you might do better to take it at a slower speed.
If it sometimes goes one way and sometimes the other, it may be that the canal is shallower on one side of the boat and this causes a drop in pressure which pulls the boat that way. My own boat is not easy to reverse on a shallow canal but, in the middle of Gloucester dock with plenty of water under it, it steers almost as well in reverse as it does in forward.
You can correct the boat by a short burst of forward with the rudder guiding the stern back into line but progress can be very slow if you need to do this too often.
One trick we have learned if we need to reverse some distance is to have someone (me) on the bank holding the stern and centre ropes. The steerer meanwhile has the boat in slow reverse and keeps the rudder pointing straight ahead or slightly towards the direction the boat needs to go. If the boat drifts away from the bank, I pull the stern rope. If it comes towards the bank, a quick shove off and a pull on the centre rope usually does the trick.

Graham Booth  | 9.58AM, Friday 23 April

I don't know if others will agree with Dave Cleaver's suggestions but I do.

Graham Booth  | 10.03AM, Friday 23 April

Readers say:

I find (but others may not agree with this)that it is best to start with the boat stationary. Then go SLOWLY and don't move the tiller too far from straight. If reversing a long way it will probably be necessary to give the occasional burst of forward power to correct any over steer. The more water underneath the boat the easier it is to reverse so try to keep to the centre of the channel.

Dave Cleaver  | 9.47AM, Friday 23 April

Many thanks Dave and Graham your help is much appreciated. I think that I may have been too eager to get the boat moving in reverse with the result that I used too many revs. Looking forward to trying the STOP then reverse SLOWLY method.

Clive Neale  | 6.56PM, Tuesday 4 May

Rowing the tiller (Gently out, very hard back)can mobe the stern sideways as long as you're not going too fast.
It's very easy to overcompensate when pulling lines from the bank - Someone at the bow with a long shaft can usually correct waggles before they get too severe, but again it's easy to go at it too hard

Ray Butler  | 6.40PM, Wednesday 5 May

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