Docking The Hylas 54

By Rich

If you own a first – or second-generation (ie 1970s or 1980s era) Sabre like we did, you may be a docking ninja on just about any other sailboat and not even knowing it. We loved our Sabre 42 desperately but she was … uh … slightly challenging to handle under power in tight quarters when docking unless the conditions were totally calm.

I have only docked a Hylas 54 twice – once during the sea trial of a candidate for Rover in Fort Lauderdale, and once weekend before last docking Rover here in Charleston for the first time. On both occasions I have been amazed at how much more relaxed the experience was. Here are the differences:

  • The Hylas (like most newer boats) has a single engine control that combines the throttle with the gear lever. That means you can switch from being in gear, to neutral, to reverse while keeping one hand on the wheel and without concentrating on making sure the engine speed is down to idle before engaging a gear. By contrast, on the Sabre these two controls were separate, which meant (i) bracing the wheel with one’s chest to keep it from turning, and (ii) becoming distracted by the need to verify the engine speeds were down to idle before a gear change. It might sound like a trivial distinction but in practice it makes a huge difference in the docking or anchoring experience.

  • The Hylas’ prop is in line with its rudder. This means that from a dead stop you can engage forward and immediately kick the stern out using the wash over the rudder. By contrast, the first two generations of Sabres had the prop designed to be offset from the rudder. So these generations of boats (and any contemporary boats with twin rudders!) can’t be steered before they are moving through the water fast enough to get flow over the rudder. This is a major difference that meant careful planning of maneuvers on the Sabre, whereas we can turn the Hylas around in a much shorter radius even before we consider…..
  • …..the bow thruster. Having this basically feels like cheating after several seasons docking and anchoring Le Saberage. Interestingly, I had a working thruster on the Lauderdale sea trial but I didn’t when docking Rover for the first time. Meh. Everything was so much easier to begin with that we’re going to feel like spoiled brats the first time we use our new one.

So here’s the rub: if you’re a Sabre owner and you’re not constantly plowing into things and bending pulpits,  congratulations: you’re a Jedi Knight at docking whether you knew it or not.

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