How to Maneuver a Catamaran in a Marina or to a Mooring ball

With Rudders Forward of the Propeller or Aft Configurations

No matter how much experience you have in maneuvering a catamaran in a marina or to a mooring ball, if you’re a wee bit rusty, you’re going to have an “interesting” time doing it. And considering the cost of even a small ding in the gel coat, it is prudent to brush up on the maneuverability.

What makes it particularly difficult and confusing is that some catamarans have their propellers aft of the rudders while some catamarans have their propellers forward of the rudders. This makes a huge difference in maneuverability – especially in close tight quarters like at the fuel pump.

The following is 1 of 100 maneuvering tips that are embedded in our Maneuvering under Power course. If you want to be an expert at maneuvering and docking both monohulls (with single or dual rudders) and catamarans, then take our Maneuvering Under Power course. Save the gel coat – save the embarrassment. In addition, now we offer Maneuvering and Docking real practical exercises in virtual reality. See our Virtual Reality course.

Typically we sail a monohull in our home waters, but when we go on a sailing vacation we often times will select a catamaran for comfort on a week of sailing. If the rudders on your rented catamaran are forward of the propellers (unlike a monohull) you’re going to have a difficult time maneuvering – it is literally topsy turvy. For example, if on your monohull you turn the wheel to starboard and give a thrust of throttle, your stern will kick to port. This is particularly useful when docking.

On a forward rudder Catamaran this does not work – actually you have to turn towards the dock and give a thrust of propeller wash in reverse on the dock side engine. That’s hard to remember in the heat of a docking moment. But first, when you first board a catamaran, you will need to figure out which style you have. A quick look in the engine room hatch will help you determine. Look to see if the rudder post is in front of the engine or behind.

Here’s a fun short video on maneuvering in a tight marina in Cavalo Island France just South of Corsica and North of Sardinia. A must visit btw.

Below we provide some animations whereby you can see and experience the various turning effects of reverse and forward and port or starboard helm.

Play through the scenarios multiple times so that you can begin to understand and use the experience here to apply when you get out on the water.

This first animation is for Catamarans with the Propeller aft of the rudder. i.e when in forward gear the wash from the propeller does NOT flow over the rudder.

This first animation is for Catamarans with the Propeller aft of the rudder. i.e when in forward gear the wash from the propeller does NOT flow over the rudder, as in below example:

 

Rudder Aft of Propeller

Select a helm and port / starboard engine scenario to see how the boat responds when the prop is aft of the rudder.

The next animation is when the rudder is aft of the propeller. More like we have in monohulls, as in below example:

Select a helm and port / starboard engine scenario to see how the boat responds when the prop is forward of the rudder.

Become an expert at Maneuvering and Docking.

Take the Maneuvering Under Power course.

Thinking about taking a sailing vacation on a Catamaran? Let NauticEd Sailing Vacations find you the perfect cat. We are catamaran charter experts. We don’t charge you a fee and can probably even save you money while connecting you with the best company. We also give location advice – chances are we have been there.

Inquire about a catamaran sailing vacation here

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My vision for NauticEd is to provide the highest quality sailing and boating education available - and deliver competence wherever sailors live and go.
Grant Headifen
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Last updated on July 13th, 2023