Backing a 40’ catamaran with a 21.5’ beam into a slip is always a gut-wrenching task. Doing it on only one engine adds another element of tension. Shrink the space allowed for maneuvering to an area of about 1000 square feet and you’ve got a picture of what it was like for Mike and me to pull Happy Times into El Milagro Marina in Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Our first attempt didn’t work. Mike steered us into the channel a second time and put the starboard engine in reverse. Happy Times barely moved. She kept trying to push against a current running in the opposite direction. For a few minutes it looked as though we’d have to go headfirst into the dock instead of stern-to as we wanted. Happy Times really struggled going in reverse and in the direction we needed. Finally she made the turn. That wasn’t the end of the exercise however.
It took another five minutes or so of Mike going back and forth, back and forth, in order to avoid the motorcat in front of us and position our boat in between four posts marking the slip. Remember what it was like learning how to parallel park? Moving a catamaran is only somewhat similar. When one engine is in reverse, typically the other engine is in forward. There’s a balance of sorts between the two that under ordinary circumstances spins the boat beautifully in one place.
We lacked maneuverability with only one engine. That’s why it took so many rounds of back and forthing to coax Happy Times into a good position. Finally we were close enough that I threw a stern line to the dock guy who secured it on a cleat.
The next challenge was to prevent the port bow from running into the post beside it. We needed to be close enough to slip a line around it and then ease off to wedge a fender into place so the post wouldn’t mar Happy Times. Once that was completed, I had to play cowgirl and lasso the post on the opposite side. I made several near-misses. With his height Mike was able to do a double-loop over the top of the post to secure Happy Times.
Pulling into El Milagro wasn’t the highlight of Mike’s 57th birthday, but there was a lot of satisfaction in getting the job done right.