The next few blog posts are going to be written by on of our instructors, Ken Jensen. He will be doing a series on docking, something that everyone can always learn and practice more.
Ken has been teaching with VSS since 2004. A native of Minnesota (The Land of 10,000 Lakes!), Ken moved to Colorado in 1995, and took his first class with VSS in 2002. Back in Minnesota, Ken and his dad sailed little dinghies like Sunfish and Sailfish, as well as Hobie cats back when they were the cool new thing. Nowadays Ken teaches most of the VSS classes, but particularly enjoys teaching Docking on the J/30 at Chatfield, where you will find him on most Saturdays.
These blog posts assume you will be motoring in and out of the marina, so we need to discuss motors. In this post, I will be referring to the outboard engine on the J/22 and the Marine diesel on the J/30.
In starting an outboard, the first question is whether to use the choke on the initial pulls. My typical technique is to put the throttle in the starting position, then give the motor two pulls while the choke button is in (disengaged). If the motor does not start, I pull the choke button out (engaged), and give the engine two more pulls with the choke button out. I keep alternating (two pulls with the choke button in, two pulls with the choke button out) until the motor starts.
If the motor is flooded (meaning there is too much gas in the cylinder and not enough air), there are two techniques. Some people just let the motor sit for a while, then do a normal start, and this will often work. We impatient types will instead disconnect the fuel hose and try to start the motor with the throttle full open. Once it starts, turn the throttle down and re-connect the fuel hose. If you are quick, the motor won’t stop, and you will look like an outboard motor hero (OMH).
Starting a diesel is a little different. I start the diesel on the J/30 in idle (the throttle lever straight up), but check the manual on the engine, some manufacturers recommend starting the engine with a partially open throttle.
I also like to start the diesel with shore power unplugged. When you start the engine with the boat plugged into shore power, it is really the shore power which is starting the engine, so you have no idea of the condition of the batteries. With shore power unplugged, you get an idea of the condition of the batteries when you start the engine- good info to have, that.
And with the diesel, don’t crank the engine for more than about 3 seconds, and give the engine a rest between crankings. Continuous cranking on the engine is hard on the starter.
Next, shifting. For both types of engines, the idea is to shift slowly and deliberately. A best practice is to say out loud the gear you are in, the word “pause”, and the gear you are shifting in to. So “Neutral”, “Pause”, “Reverse” for instance.
Finally, to shut down a marine diesel, remember this like you remember your wife’s birthday: DO NOT SHUT THE MOTOR DOWN BY SIMPLY TURNING OFF THE KEY. Instead, put the motor idling in neutral, then pull out on the fuel cutoff until the motor completely stops. Then when the motor is completely stopped, push the fuel cutoff button in. NOW it is safe to turn off the key. Turning off the key directly can burn out the diodes in the alternator.
A few more thoughts:
The J/30 has a tachometer which will display how fast the engine is spinning. There is no redline on the face of the tachometer, but I don’t rev that engine past 2,000 RPM.
On the J/22, the outboard motor has separate controls for the throttle (engine speed) and the shifting. With this setup, it is possible to shift the engine while the engine is revving (while the throttle is partially or fully open). NEVER DO THAT. Instead, always shift the outboards on the J/22 with the engine speed down at idle. Shifting while revving is very hard on the engine.
Also, it is not a bad idea to test the motor at the dock, on the mooring lines. So once the motor is warmed up a little, gently put the motor in gear and give the motor maybe half throttle, just to prove that it is running healthy. Do both forward and reverse.
That’s a few things about the motor. I promise that sooner or later this blog post will get out of the slip and into the marina!