How long should it take for a training mate to learn how to operate the vessel

I was driving a 55’ motoryacht through the Panama Canal, and that boat simply would not walk. We were transiting with a Canal Pilot and tying starboard-to with a canal tug. The Pilot would call to pull away from the tug so the tug could run ahead to the next lock . Nothing I did would get that boat away from the tug. At the third lock, the Adviser calmly turned to me and said “You ARE clear on the concept, aren’t you?”. Pretty embarrassing over all, but I showed him the process and he was astounded that the boat wouldn’t crab away from the tug. If there was ever a candidte for at least one thruster, it was that thing. It had the profile and beauty of a RoRo.
Before I get called for it, this was before “Canal Advisers”.

Some musings from my own career in no particular order:

You should learn everything on deck before you attempt the wheel house. The reason being if you ever get stuck on a boat with a green deckhand, you can walk the guy through the make up. If you have no clue, it won’t go well.

Nobody can shit your pants for you, you have to do that yourself.

You are doing the correct thing by observing docking and undocking. That is what makes or breaks guys, any idiot can stand a wheel watch, but not everyone can get the barge onto the dock in poor conditions.

Weather, Weather, Weather old timers constantly monitor the weather and walk around with tide books in their pockets.

Don’t ever leave a perfectly good dock in poor weather or visibility. If you are out and things get bad, you deal with it.

Also learn the engine room, you may find yourself down there more than you think. Learn your way around starting and securing engines and gensets, as well as a changing racor filters. You may not always have the luxury of a competent engineer.

In my experience, fast motor yachts in the 40-60 foot range crab very poorly, most not at all. I think it’s due to the comparatively large drive center offset and tiny rudders.

@Red_Griffin, your question has been covered pretty well by now. I just want to add that you should count yourself lucky that you’re being pushed on handling the boat so early on. Lots of guys don’t get that kind of space to grow. Relax, keep applying yourself, you’ll be OK.

It’s a given that longer the hull, and therefore shorter relative distance between the screws the more resistance they have to overcome in crabbing maneuvers. I ran a 70’ private yacht the owner had built from scratch. The architect had incorporated bow thruster in the design but the owner let some of his boating pals with smaller boats talk him out of it and he’d taken delivery by the time I signed on. The boat wouldn’t crab worth a damn and we visited crowded marinas packed wall to wall with shiny fiberglass where I secretly cursed his pals for their meddling.