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FatGoldChain

Teaching the wife to drive the boat...

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FatGoldChain

So, I am curious what techniques you all use/have used to teach a person to drive an inboard boat.

Background: currently we have a 17 axis t22. For us this is an expensive toy.  

I have been driving boats for a long time so it comes naturally plus I am not one to shy away from giving it a shot. 

My wife however has very little experience and does not have a lot of confidence for this, which is the main issue. She is however very capable just doesn’t know she can. Thus causing her to be timid and not give it a shot unless forced to. When this occurs and she doesn’t get it on the first shot, she gets frustrated and wants to quit.

Needless to say this is an issue for us when docking/ launching and frankly so I don’t have to drive all the time. 

 

I should also mention our local lake is really busy almost all the time making practicing in and around the dock rather challenging. Which as mentioned above makes me have to do everything with docking, driving the truck.

I am incredibly patient but think we would all have a more enjoyable time if this element of stress was removed.

 

thanks in advance!

 

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smileysteve

The marinas near me on Lake Martin (Russell Marine) and Lanier (Marine Max) recently had or are scheduling women on the water for this very issue. It's concerning that they're still mostly led by men, it would probably be healthy for women to see women leading the course. Alabama requires permanent residents to get a boater addon to their license.

Confidence is the big thing. Even as my mother has aged, she has lost a significant amount; I remember back in high school she was driving all of the tubers when I wanted to ride (and she did fine). Some of this is probably that my father has been doing more of the driving in older age and he also gets aggravated more easily. 

I've also coached and instructed at the college level; and for the most part college aged people aren't lacking confidence. I try to ensure that we're taking rotations driving or that the student in charge acts as the student in charge.

  1. Don't start with docking, it's a tense situation
  2. When there are multiple people, assign a spotter to help a driver
  3. Be willing to swim a little
  4. Some people are bad at distances, demonstrate what 100' and 200' are
  5. Express the purpose; Driver needs to be close to the skier so that they can talk.
    So be goofy, smile, make small talk, flirt with your wife or gf.
  6. Neutral is home (this, avoiding power turning are what I'm currently working on). Similarly idling back to the skier.

With surfing, alignment might matter less and try to be conversational since you are so close. You can do things like set the speedset and point where to head to.

With skiing, I'm still watching the boat most of the time. I have been known to signal directions and even drop the rope to prevent a driver from driving right into an area that i know is shallow. 

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UWSkier
37 minutes ago, Pnwrider said:

LET SOMEONE ELSE TEACH HER.

Trust me, as others have already stated, that is by far the best advice you will receive. Check with the local dealers and see if they offer any courses for beginning boats (specifically woman). As an example, my dealer puts on a course specifically for women ( http://www.seattleboatlife.com/babesonboats/ ) that my wife plans on attending this year. When we first started boating I was lucky to have a friend that was in the same boat. We wife swappped for a day on the water and it worked out great. Both of us were much more patient teaching a friend as opposed to our spouse. 

Had to read that sentence twice to figure out how having two inexperienced women in the boat was better than one...

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UWSkier

Rent her a tow-motor and have her practice parallel parking it next to your truck. :)

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Pnwrider
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, UWSkier said:

Had to read that sentence twice to figure out how having two inexperienced women in the boat was better than one...

And I was worried about typing “wife swap”. 

Edited by Pnwrider

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Gavin17
1 hour ago, SCMike said:

For now, just have her drive in open water.  Forget about docking and pulling off the trailer.  That will just lead to more frustration and insecurities.  My wife has been my sole boat driver for the last few years.  She is my preferred driver when wake boarding and surfing and does an amazing job at that.  She is still not comfortable docking or pulling the boat on or off the trailer.  That’s ok though.  I get my runs in anytime I want, and just have to make sure to handle the docking etc.  it makes for a very stress free day on the water for the both of us.  Sure, I’d love it if she could pull the boat off the trailer or drive it on, but I never pressure her to do it because I’d rather her want to go out on the lake rather then be stressed about driving.  

I 100% agree with this. 

 

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ahopkinsVTX

A lot of good advice already. If I can add anything it would be not to push her. If you are helping her with something be very calm in your direction even if something is about to go wrong. I know the boat is an expensive toy, but gel scratches are fixed easily, they are not the end of the world so don’t flip out if something does happen. It’s going to happen at some point even to the best of drivers. I got mad at my wife one year for starting to pull onto the trailer too soon and then leaving engine on for me to find it still running in the ramp parking lot. There was a storm coming in fast and my only focus was getting the boat out of the water quickly. I should have been focused on getting everyone in the truck then the boat. Boats can get wet lol. It took a few years for her to get back behind the wheel after that but now she’s doing great and is a really good driver. 

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asnowman

As other have said, if you can, get someone else to teach her and help her ga8n confidence. One important part of that as i found out, she can gain confidence, and have a solid way to impress you. 

Floating objects are great to practice on for coming up to down riders, especially free floating ones. We started teaching one of our boys by tossing a course buoy into the water at speed, and having him maneuver back to get it. It was safe and fun for all of us.  For docking practice, we use the slalom course buoys as they are kind of fixed in place, but its a no harm situation.  In any case its critical to be patient and encouraging. I am lucky to have a kid (gulp...now tennager) that really drives well, in addition to my wife. My wife learns well with sink or swim situations, and had an incident that made her hesitant around the dock, she gave power to an old i/o and got the stern drive into the rocks,  did some damage, but that's why we have insurance.  Mistakes happen, and all you can do is move on. I never got upset about it, just got it fixed, and kept offering her to opportunity to try again. Now unless conditions are really tough, if she's in the seat she docks it. If she isn't comfortable she says so, and i do it. 

As for the ramp, my wife still gets a little nervous around the ramp, mostly because she dosen't want to feel like she is keeping others waiting. Our ramp is quiet most of the time, but is a little narrow, like 6 inches of spare space on either side between a dock and a rock.  She wanted to be the one driving the truck, which is great.  The first couple tries didn't go great. So i changed tactics to help teach her. We used the riding mower with a trailer. This worked out great, both the mower and trailer have crazy short turning radius, so things go bad fast, and you learn fast. After a summer of rearranging our gardens, she puts the trailer in like a pro, and i proudly hop in the passenger seat.

Patients, fun, and encouragement build confidence. But sometimes it helps to not be there as she build those skills. 

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Hemmy

Have her take one of the boater safety courses also.  You can take these online.  My wife had to take one to be able to drive the jet ski.  I read through a lot of it with her.  While it is not going to replace the practice of driving, there is a lot to be gained from reading one of those courses.  It wasn't required for me to take it but I still went through it and found it very helpful.  

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Infinitysurf

When I first got our inboard 3yrs ago my wife was very nervous about driving it, not only cause she had not driven a boat that large, but because it maneuvers differently. Even tho we have had boats for last 20yrs, none of them handled like this one and it made her uncomfortable. Also, being my wife, she knew how OCD I was about the boat and was scared I would get mad if she messed up, so the comments about having someone else teach her are very valid.

I can be intimidating at times without always realizing how I am coming across to others and after 20yrs of marriage, she had seen how ruthless I can be with others in certain situations (admittedly, at times its a calculated attitude around others since we live in a dog eat dog society where people prey on perceived weakness if you allow it), but I have learned to recognize that around my family and am careful not to let that side of me come out around them. As a guy who in not always in touch with my softer side, I don't always know how to show it in actions rather than words. It did help her realize that she and my girls are FAR more important to me than the boat when a couple months into owning it, we went thru an unexpected micro-burst event on the largest part of our lake that I can only compare to a bad storm at open sea. She saw firsthand that the boat was meaningless to me compared to the safety of my family and I had no qualms making sure they were safe and would have gladly let the boat sink if that was the option (blessed it didn't come to that, but had things gone slightly different, it may have). Guess the point tho, was after that event she knew that if she made a mistake and something happened to the boat, I was not going to flip out. The boat can be fixed or replaced, nothing is more important than their safety and happiness.

What worked for us, was me being patient and showing her how to operate in open water when it wasn't busy. She is an awesome driver now and will drive so I can surf anytime. A big key to this is I NEVER criticize her driving no matter what she does, always thank her and tell her what a great job she is doing. If she is uncomfortable with a situation, I don't push her to do something. If I want to suggest a different way to do something, I ask her if she would like to learn a different way of doing it and if she says no, I leave it alone and don't bring it up again. She is still not comfortable around the dock and I have never pushed her to try docking the boat because of that (tho I still occasionally ask her if she wants to try cause I want her to know I trust her), but that doesn't matter to me, I am just stoked that she is now comfortable driving in open water. I just handle all the operating around the dock/trailer. We still have a fast, efficient process that gets our boat docked and out of water/on trailer faster than many people there who have one person driving truck and the other on the boat cause I focus on the boat & truck and they focus on getting the other stuff taken care of.

Be patient with her and recognize that some of her hesitation may be cause she does not want to disappoint you or potentially cause damage to the boat.

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CBray4

I am hoping to teach my wife this year as well. All great info here! She won't be docking or trailering, just pulling surfers.  

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oldjeep
Posted (edited)

I will disagree with some of the advice.  Docking and on and off the trailer is #1 thing to learn, because it is a safety issue if you are the only one able to do it.

Main thing is to not freak out when the boat hits the dock or the guide posts, or comes on the trailer diagonally.  The toughest lesson for my wife was - when the boat isn't lined up right for the trailer, just circle around and try again - don't try to reverse and "fix" it.

That being said.   Take a day in the middle of the week during a time that nobody is around.  Go over the  instructions carefully before starting.  If you can arrange to actually be in the boat and have someone else deal with the tow vehicle then that is ideal.  Then work on open water maneuvering and how you take off for your sport of choice.  The last thing you should teach anyone is how to drive for surfing, because you are then dealing with a boat that handles like a garbage truck and you should be pretty confident with normal driving before you do that.

My wife is my main driver and puts the boat on and off the trailer 99% of the time

 

 

Edited by oldjeep

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Michigan boarder

My wife started with driving in open water.  She dipped the bow under in the first 10 minutes.  Big deal, it's a boat, it gets wet.  Now she drives, pulls footers, wakeboarders, surfers, etc.  I always took over with the docking and launching but lately she wants in on that, as she gains confidence (or loses confidence in me, not really sure....).  But, we started with an old outboard for years, then an I/O, and now the Bu so she has had a lot of practice.

How long have you owned the boat?

I strongly agree with finding someone else to show her, especially if you two are already experiencing frustration over it.

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Slurpee

My wife and I learned inboards at about the same time.  That being said I had a lot more boat driving experience than her so I picked it up quicker and ended up being the pilot too often.  And like has been said she was nervous about dinging my pretty new toy.

What it boiled down to when I considered the challenge was two things.

1) having a feel for gentle touches on the throttle and how the boat responded

2) having a feel for low speed maneuvering

We did NOT do any practicing near docks and such.  Instead I'd toss a buoy overboard with a light anchor attached with a few inches of rope.  It'd tend to stay in place that way.  Then she'd practice coming up on it on either side.  Kissing it with the bow.  Reversing away.  Coming at it sideways with the forward-reverse-forward action on the throttle.  Etc.  Later we tossed two or three buoys and would challenge each other with obstacle course games.  You can do this on a busy lake.  Just find a corner somewhere that isn't popular and have fun.  My wife's only complaint about moving from an '01 to a '16 was the arm rest and throttle position isn't what she was used to and liked.  So she's lost the gentle touch on the throttle.

All the docking fiasco's I've seen from poor driving really came down to a very bad hand on the throttle for making and braking speed.  Too fast -> hard sudden reverse = lots of prop torque -> stern wags off the line bad.  Or drifting into a pier -> wind gets you sideways -> hard turn and hard throttle to get clear -> prop torque and turn swing the stern into the pilings.  Teach her to pivot the boat and expect some maneuvers to take as long as they take to complete.

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granddaddy55
Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, SCMike said:

For now, just have her drive in open water.  Forget about docking and pulling off the trailer.  That will just lead to more frustration and insecurities.  My wife has been my sole boat driver for the last few years.  She is my preferred driver when wake boarding and surfing and does an amazing job at that.  She is still not comfortable docking or pulling the boat on or off the trailer.  That’s ok though.  I get my runs in anytime I want, and just have to make sure to handle the docking etc.  it makes for a very stress free day on the water for the both of us.  Sure, I’d love it if she could pull the boat off the trailer or drive it on, but I never pressure her to do it because I’d rather her want to go out on the lake rather then be stressed about driving.  

This all day with major emphasis on the concept of a good neutral  and when she finally tries driving on when she’s ready , swallow your reaction when she bends the guide pole coming in hot!

 I leave it bent as a reminder , snd I keep ignoring the cracked plastic corner rub rail as I’m cleaning up!  There will be damage but since she owns it she had s right to scratch it when she’s all alone in boat doing what you hoped she would do

mine jumps up from captains chair  with motor still in gear as she attaches winch hook and tightens the crank arm and sits back down so I don’t  even get my feet wet. I only get out of truck now for assurance cause she gets timid and doesn’t go all the way up, this is 40 years of first her own boats trailered by a ‘79?Cadillac Seville , to the two outboards we owned together towed by trucks, to now the vdrive,  Your asking for a big step up, be willing to take the years on her learning curve that it takes to get there.  I would be seriously intimidated if the first boat I had to master to drive was a 78000 boat!  Process that fir just 2 seconds 

One more thing, totally turn off the music and let her hear all those sounds and vibrations snd small whines,  she needs to hear what she does when she moves that throttle lever and get a feel for rpms even though she’ll be cruise dependent later on , FAE sort of hides the noise almost two good, pcm on surf pipe surfing sounds like a hum , so you only get what you feel in your seat and not a lot  if noise feedback 

Edited by granddaddy55

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minnmarker

My wife has progressed at her own rate over the years with NO pressure from me.  She'll dock/trailer the pontoon but not yet the inboard, but I think she's close.  Agree with @granddaddy55 on the no music so she can hear the the engine and even rudder movement around the dock and a downed skier/surfer.  She's great at driving for surfing and turns to pick up and even retrieves/throws the pull rope herself when it's just the two of us (thank you new WI law).  For SL pulls she was slow to get comfortable with the speed but now she does nice keyhole turns, and thank you PP!  The only time she screwed up last year was when she listened to a friend of mine and did something different than she was used to - just because a "he" told her to.  Know she trusts her own judgement.

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05hammerhead
17 minutes ago, minnmarker said:

My wife has progressed at her own rate over the years with NO pressure from me.  She'll dock/trailer the pontoon but not yet the inboard, but I think she's close.  Agree with @granddaddy55 on the no music so she can hear the the engine and even rudder movement around the dock and a downed skier/surfer.  She's great at driving for surfing and turns to pick up and even retrieves/throws the pull rope herself when it's just the two of us (thank you new WI law).  For SL pulls she was slow to get comfortable with the speed but now she does nice keyhole turns, and thank you PP!  The only time she screwed up last year was when she listened to a friend of mine and did something different than she was used to - just because a "he" told her to.  Know she trusts her own judgement.

Funny about the pontoon vs inboard thing.  Ive found that even myself its weird to switch from an outboard to an inboard and be comfortable around docks.  

My wife is an incredibly proficient boat driver, but still wont do it by herself.  Somehow Ill have to figure out how to get her past that.  I know shed have a ton of fun going out for ladies nights on the boat.  Getting her more into it means it just feeds my addiction. 

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hawaiianstyln

I've been slowly teaching my wife on quiet days.  I will throw the rope out at 80' (my length I like to ride at) and dial PP in at 24 mph and teach her how to pull a rider up out of the water.  I will make her drive and understanding what driving straight means.  I've been working on her tightness of turns and understanding that you want to get back in the same wake you just created, quickly and not over time.  Then I have a large size buoy we use to tie up.  When she is not expecting it I toss the buoy out (as a fallen rider).  She is learning to stop the boat (straight), wait till you are no longer creating a wake, then put in gear and turn around to pick up the rider again (buoy In this case). 

Basically trying to teach her as if she was pulling a competition run.  Keep it straight, watch for debris, understand your awareness to other vessels in the water, get back in your lane quickly after turn around, when/if you have to stop, stop straight and throw the wake out and not back down your lane because you power turn while stopping the boat.  I also show her other drivers on the water where they make their mistakes.  Lets take example of the power turning to pickup a fallen rider:  Waste of gas powering up to pickup a rider, throwing waves all over the lake to destroy the water, not ideally safe to power up and pickup a rider unless you have another boat behind the rider that is directly coming at them.

She is starting to see the faults that others make on the water and it's helping her learn what not to do.  Once she understands competition towing, recreational towing should be easier.  That is how I learned many years as a certified driver for Hawaii Wakeboard Pro/AM and have driven many tournaments for the AWA (Arizona Wakeboard Association)

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Jmcclain01

My wife is possibly one of the best drivers I have seen on the water.  When we decided to get into the boating life we both agreed it was going to be a team effort.  I was not going to be that guy at the ramp that tied the boat up taking the dock space up, backed the truck down and loaded the boat.  So with that agreement we went to the middle of the lake and started learning.   First things first, teach her how important slow is.  Teach her about idle, and no steering control in idle, and teach her about in gear in forward and reverse.  These three things are the key to driving an inboard.  With just the understanding of those three things and that slow is good, she can put the boat anywhere.  Explain to her the direction the boat will move when in reverse, regardless of how she turns the steering wheel and let her practice.  I am a big fan of practicing in normal conditions, so would not worry about choosing a calm and quiet day on the lake if she will never operate in those conditions.  Support is your biggest friend in this situation.  Have to keep your cool and be positive.  Teach her that the drivers side of the boat is her friend, everything should always stay on the drivers side when possible, down riders, docks, other boats, etc.  I have been on too many boats when drivers, men mostly, think heavy throttle movements is the way to go.  I personally think this is because they are not in control of the boat.  I understand sometimes this is necessary, but should be the exception, not the norm. 

The most important part in my opinion is to let her know that in learning to drive and be a part of it, lots more fun will come out of the boating experience.  My wife has two or three girls days out on the boat and they love it.  I drive them to the ramp, drop them and never hear from them until they are ready to be picked up.  Because of her experience I have zero concern about her operating the boat alone.   

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