Practical Seamanship / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $4.69
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 73%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (12) from $4.69   
  • New (7) from $10.89   
  • Used (5) from $4.69   


Anyone who has spent time at an anchorage, a marina, beside a channel or at a harbor entrance quickly realizes a great many people operating power boats are relatively new to the sport and are still coping with the learning process.

The need to know why boats handle as they do and how those conditions can be overcome or used to an advantage is the reason for this book. Starting with the basics - every action has an equal and opposite reaction - and working up through thrust, windage, currents, center of gravity, hull shape and beyond, Practical Seamanship provides the knowledge in simple terms and clear illustrations.

David's goal is not to make every reader a blue-water cruiser, but to provide the basics to help them handle their boats in a knowledgeable, responsible manner, backed up by a recognition of what the boating community expects from them (and why) while they are on the water. The text touches upon lines, rigging, equipment, boat design, rules and courtesy, but only where they impact the main theme, becoming a good and safe boater.

From the Author: As TechStar approached the marina, her skipper did a careful visual check of the traffic conditions in the harbor, then reached over to the mouse in the navigation station and used it to select the docking icon on the computer display. Satisfied that his selection had registered, he turned and walked back to the cockpit to join his guests as the boat continued toward shore.

The navigational computer responded by tapping into the data bus that linked all of the boat's instruments and began gathering information in preparation for docking. Radar reported no traffic in the way; the GPS verified the location; analysis of the video images of the dock indicated that the space was clear and the weather station on the mast chimed in with wind speed and direction data. The computer instructed the engine controllers to reduce the boat's forward speed; it adjusted the rudders' angle to compensate for the current in the outgoing tide, then began to pulse the bow and stern thrusters on and off to position the boat in proper alignment as it neared the dock. After a nearly imperceptible application of reverse thrust brought the boat to a stop, a muted alarm sounded to alert the skipper that it was time to drop the fenders into position and secure the dock lines. Until he did, the computer held the boat in position - two feet from the dock face - based on the input from a series of tiny sonar transducers which transmitted distance information from their position along the vessel's waterline.

That description of automated docking may seem like science fiction, but it is fiction only because no one has bothered to do it yet. The good news is that all of the technologies already exist and it is only a matter of time until someone puts them all together on a boat. The bad news is that the first implementation will, almost certainly, be on a high-priced megayacht and it will be years before the cost of the technology comes down to the point where it is affordable for smaller boats. Until then, boat owners will have to continue to wrestle with wind, tide and the uncertainties of handling boats as they always have.

Seamanship encompasses many skills and activities. It includes knowledge of piloting, navigation, lines and knots, weather wisdom, communication and maintenance, much of which is acquired through experience and, therefore, difficult to teach in a tutorial. Knowledge about another important aspect of seamanship - boat handling - is also experience-based, but learning it can be helped considerably by an understanding of how the boat and its systems work. That is where Practical Seamanship comes in.

Practical seamanship – handling a boat at slower speeds - especially in tight quarters or in adverse conditions, is a skill that separates the tyros from the pros. Its challenges are such that even the most experienced skipper can run into problems or get embarrassed on occasion. I was on the Casco Bay ferry, ISLAND HOLIDAY, a couple of years ago as it approached the dock at Little Diamond Island, Maine, one of the many stops on its route. The captain had, obviously, misjudged the conditions, because he came in so fast even a last-minute application of full-throttle power in reverse couldn't prevent a jarring collision that rattled the wooden pier and nearly toppled the passengers waiting there. Fortunately, the only damage was to the captain's ego, so I can admit that I derived some satisfaction from his error. If a pro, who had stopped at that same dock hundreds of times, could have such a problem, then I shouldn't feel badly about entertaining the locals with an occasionally, inelegant approach of my own.

The information in Practical Seamanship will not guarantee that you will never suffer the embarrassment of a misjudged docking attempt, but it will provide you with an understanding of the forces at work, how different propulsion systems affect your ability to maneuver the boat and how you can use their capabilities to your advantage. There are separate sections on single-screw inboard and twin-screw boats that outline areas where their performance differs from outboard or stern-drive boats (which, together, comprise the majority of pleasure craft in use today). In all cases, the emphasis is on slow-speed handling, docking - both coming and going, anchoring and things to look out for while under way.

Practical Seamanship is based on the hard-won practical experience of someone who has made far more than his share of boat-handling errors along the way - some comical, some not. I hope it will help you avoid a few of your own.

My thanks to Newport's (formerly Newburyport's) Dick Fredrickson for his thoughtful review of my manuscript.

Author Biography: Dave Yetman is a lifelong New Englander who's spent most of his adult life within sight of the water and comes by his nautical interests quite naturally. His seafaring ancestors include Labrador fishermen and lighthouse keepers and a Cape Cod grandfather who was an inventor and shipbuilder and noted for his models of historic New England lighthouses.

His own career has been in mechanical design and engineering, first as an entrepreneur and later as an engineering manager for an international technology company. He's been awarded patents for a wide range of devices, from motorcycle frames to biomedical laboratory instruments and enjoys applying his talents to his boats, which usually end up in a highly customized state.

His work has been widely published in the boating press and was recognized with an awards in the 1997 and 1999 Boating Writers International writing competition. His articles, photography and technical illustrations have been published in Boating World, Lakeland Boating, Motorboating & Sailing, Offshore, Power & Motoryacht, Sail, Soundings, Trailer Boats and Yachting magazines. He has three books to his credit: "The Boaters' Book of Nautical Terms", "Practical Seamanship" and "Modern Boatworks".

Dave and his wife, Pat enjoy cruising the New England coast on CURMUDGEON, their Albin Tournament Express convertible.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Trailer Boats
How many boaters suffer embarrassment, or worse, due to lack of boat-handling experience? anyone hanging around a marina or public dock for very long knows this is an all too common problem.

Now from Bristol Fashion Publications comes Practical Seamanship: How to Handle Your Boat Like a Pro, the latest book by Trailer Boats columnist David S. Yetman. this time the prolific author is out to help novice boaters gain mastery over powerboating -- and become better and safer boaters overall. According to Yetman, many boat-handling problems stem from inexperience and lack of familiarity with the mechanics of it.

Chock-full of basic information, the illustrated, 116-page book addresses issues pertinent to inboards with single or twin screws, outboards and sterndrives.Other chapters outline heavy-seas handling, docking and anchoring. This sturdy, laminated book is constructed to accompany you onboard.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781892216373
  • Publisher: Bristol Fashion Publications
  • Publication date: 9/5/2000
  • Edition description: Comb Bound
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 116
  • Product dimensions: 0.28 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


Someone once characterized handling a boat as "driving a car with no brakes on a moving icy road". It may not be quite that bad, but it is true you cannot maneuver a boat with the surety or accuracy of driving a car. The car has a relatively firm grip on the road surface, a responsive speed control, brakes and a steering system that is almost second-nature to people from the industrialized world. You can drive with the assurance that the front end will usually go, precisely, where you steer the front wheels and, the rear wheels will obediently follow closely in their tracks. When you stop, the car stays stopped and there is no need to tie it to a stationary object when you park.

Not so, in a boat. To begin with, it steers from the back, so the orientation of the bow is only indirectly controlled by the action of the rudder. When you turn the wheel to port, the stern moves to starboard. Other than reversing the direction of thrust, there is no way to stop the boat, and shutting the engine off or putting it in neutral doesn't, necessarily, mean it will stop moving. I can still remember how astounded I was when I launched my first boat and realized how little control I could exercise over its direction during docking maneuvers. I had taken an eight-session Coast Guard Auxiliary course and read everything I could get my hands on, but I was still unprepared for anything but you turn the wheel and the boat goes where you point it.

At least some of the difficulty experienced by beginning boaters can be traced to a lack of familiarity with the mechanics of steering a boat. My own difficulties continued as long as I insisted on thinking about how my steering input was going to control the bow. They began to abate as soon as I started thinking in terms of how my input was going to affect the stern, where the steering is, and how that, in turn, would affect the bow. From that point on, I had a much better picture of what I had to do to coax the boat onto the intended course.

I also had to learn where the boat's turning axis was. Returning to the automotive analogy; turning the steering wheel results in a predictable change in the direction of the front of a car. In the case of a boat, turning the wheel results in the stern going one way and the bow in the other – and the two movements are not always equal. One of the reasons for the discrepancy is the boat's turning axis - which is generally located at the hull's point of greatest resistance to turning. This point may not be where you would expect it to be.

Figure 1 shows three examples of steering axis locations, the position of which are marked by a circle of arrows, (this format is used to illustrate pivot points throughout this book). If the boat has a deep forefoot or a load concentrated forward (1) its turning axis would be forward of center. It would result in unequal movement, where the stern swings further than the bow (as shown by the broken line outline). A boat whose load is concentrated aft (2) would behave in the opposite manner, because its turning axis would be aft of midships. The turning axis of a sailboat with a substantial ballast keel (3) would be amidships, causing it to exhibit nearly equal movement of bow and stern – the reason many of them can turn on a dime.

Other aspects boaters often neglect to consider are the different angles of thrust that result from various outdrive or outboard positions. As an example, use the boat in Figure 2 with the dock on its port side. When the wheel is turned to port, as shown in Panel A, the outdrive or outboard will swing in that direction. When forward gear is engaged, the stern will move ahead and to starboard. In reverse, it will pull the stern closer to the dock on the port side.

If the wheel is turned to starboard in the same situation (Panel B), the motions will be reversed. Forward gear will push the stern forward and into the dock. Reverse will pull it away.

While all of these options are useful in the appropriate situation, they are a lot for a novice to remember in the midst of docking a boat, particularly since most of the action takes place behind them. They seem complex at first, but once you learn to visualize what happens in response to your input at the helm, they become instinctive ways for you to control or, at least, influence the course of your boat during slow-speed maneuvers.

Another very useful bit of information that will contribute to your expertise, is being able to relate the position of your rudder to the position of the wheel at the helm. If the total travel of the wheel is 4 turns lock-to-lock, for example, you can assume ,the rudder is centered (straight ahead) when you have rotated the wheel 2 turns from full lock. In the case of a mechanical steering system, you can mark the top of the wheel with a strip of tape or a few turns of small-diameter line to indicate dead center. The wheel in a hydraulic system is not directly connected to the rudder, so "center" may not always correlate precisely to the same wheel position, but you can still count turns to determine the approximate position. Knowing the position of the rudder is good information to have before you get under way, especially in tight surroundings.

The behavior of a boat and its ease of handling are also affected by external influences like forward speed, wind and current and by a long list of internal (i.e.: onboard) variables such as size, style, hull shape, below-the-waterline characteristics, type of propulsion it uses, the number of motors it has and, even, the placement of its gear and accessories. Unless your driving includes Indy or NASCAR events, none of those variables has an appreciable impact on your ability to drive your car well. Every one of them affects the handling of your boat.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Chapter 7: DOCKING: Preparing to Dock, Docking Under Various Conditions, Docking Abeam, Docking in a Beam Wind, Docking With Wind or Current on the Bow, Docking With Wind or Current on the Stern, Docking in Limited Space, Drive-In or Back-In Slips, Docking Single-Handed
Chapter 10: UNDERWAY
Chapter 12: TRIM TABS
Chapter 13: ANCHORING
Chapter 14: DOCKHAND 101
Appendix A: GLOSSARY
Publication Credits
About The Author
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)