Chinewalk: You AIN'T "Driving THROUGH It"!
by Ken Cook
"Chinewalk" requires some definition if we're going to talk about it.
First, "What is a "chine"?" The chine of a hull is where the bottom joins the side. It may be "hard" (a well defined edge) or "soft" (significant rounding, often merely a gentle curve with no definitive break between bottom and side).
ChineWALK is a violent, often rapid, side to side oscillation. Technically, it is literally bouncing from one chine to the other. True chinewalk is one of the most dangerous events that a boater can experience. Any padV hull can chinewalk if there are hull problems, setup is wrong or the driver is inexperienced. Certain wave/wake conditions can force even the experienced driver to deal with chinewalk on a properly set up hull as well.
NOW! Does your boat CHINEWALK? If it does, you have hull/setup problems or you have not yet learned to drive it. Chinewalk cannot be "driven through", but it must be driven OUT OF when it occurs. Typically, the driver must ease out of the throttle while keeping the helm straight. This is not ALWAYS the answer, but dumping the throttle and/or attempting to steer out of this condition can cause total loss of control and lead to an accident, rather than an adrenaline rush, tripled heart rate and a dirty seat.
ALL PadVs have a tendency to "fall off the pad" to starboard (right). This is NOT chinewalk, but, if not corrected, will result in chinewalk! Driving a padV to its limits is a "high wire" or "balancing" act. Prop (engine) torque and load balance are the major factors (assuming a straight hull and good setup) in this condition. Both can be controlled and, in many cases, virtually eliminated.
THE FIRST STEP in gaining control is to assure that the engine is properly mounted (centered and plumb) and there are no hull defects (rocker or hook). Beyond a certain engine height, torque will exist no matter how well balanced the load (see below) and NO, hydraulic steering DOES NOT eliminate torque, it "masks" it. A welded, properly adjusted skeg mounted torque tab will minimize this condition.
BALANCING THE LOAD: As most hulls have a starboard driver console, there is a "built-in" load imbalance to starboard when there is only one occupant. This automatically increases the tendency to fall off to starboard. Proper positioning of batteries and other accessories is one step in minimizing this condition. This is a "static" or not easily adjustable parameter. "Overloading" or storing most tackle and other "removable" items in port (left) side rod and/or storage box(es) helps to achieve balance. Hulls with side-by-side livewells and/or dual fuel tanks offer additional solutions when fishing alone. A 30 gallon livewell system with port side only filled adds about 120 pounds (15 gal @ 8 pounds/gal) to port of centerline and contributes about half that or 60 pounds to balancing the load. Although it would decrease cruising range, similar gains can be achieved by limiting fuel in the starboard fuel tank. Gasoline weighs about 6 pounds per gallon. Do the math! If both fuel tanks must be full at the beginning of the trip, start by using the starboard tank and balance will improve as fuel is consumed. When you add a second occupant, dynamic balance changes and requires a re-think of "what's where?" to balance the load again. If the hull balance is good and the design has "3 across" seating, consider placing the passenger in the center seat for minimum impact.
OKAY, everything's "perfect". The hull is well balanced, mechanical setup is spot on and, if not a pussycat, the boat is now a well trained lion. What I mean is that the stability is still a dynamic condition. Environmental conditions (wind, waves, an unexpected wake or a required rapid/emergency maneuver) are always changing and trying to push the hull off balance. Constant awareness and an almost automatic response (this comes with the now classic phrase, "seat time") are required to assure continued safe, controlled operation. The ball's in your court. Experienced drivers can help you learn, but you must spend the time behind the wheel and learn to anticipate the hull's next "move".
"Wait a minute! How DO I drive it?" The generic answer is "small helm corrections to port as required". Not really a definitive answer, is it? No one can TELL you how to drive YOUR boat. I know it's frustrating and you get tired of hearing or reading "seat time". Although you will pick up pointers, even "show and tell" with an experienced driver at the helm and you as observer will not be enough. The corrections become so nearly automatic that it's hard to communicate "why" I did that or "when" to do it. Overcorrection to port throws the hull past centerline and it tries to fall to port. Undercorrection to port allows the hull to continue to fall to starboard and requires additional correction to port, often resulting in overcorrection. Each under or overcorrection requires a larger correction to compensate and, if that correction is too much or too little, the oscillation increases. This is the beginning of chinewalk, the time to ease out of the throttle and start over BEFORE it becomes dangerous.
You CAN do it! You must set aside on the water time to concentrate on your driving skills just as you would learning a new fishing technique.
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