Boat Docking Techniques and Tips

Pleasure boats come in a great variety of shapes and sizes with different power options. Docking a boat can be very tricky under normal conditions even more so when interacting with the weather. Here are some boat docking technique tips. There are many variables to consider here, we will try to cover just the basics. My first suggestion is to stay calm. Staying calm is most important. It allows you to think clearly, hopefully making quick and correct decisions in what could be a tense situation. One way to avoid panic, which ends in disaster almost every time, is to prepare. Considering, all the many variables both mental and physical that may have to be addressed in a very short period of time. It is essential to have a plan. What works for me is to visualize, in your mind, a plan.  Prepare in your mind the entire docking procedure as far in advance as possible. Consider all the conditions such as weather especially wind and current.

Observe boat traffic near and far. Plan exactly where you want to dock your boat, not because it is closer to the convenience store but ask yourself is this the safest and easiest space to get into. Remember calm and patience the true character of a good captain. Plan as far in advance as possible. If you have a crew it is also important to prepare them in advance. Place your crew in strategic locations or stations. Make sure they know exactly what to do. Pick the right people for the job. It is important to instruct the crew not to perform any procedure until you give specific instructions. Remember calm avoid panic.

If you’re unfamiliar with a dock I suggest that you bring your boat to a dead stop a distance from the dock observe the docking conditions as well as people on the dock who may call on to assist. Smooth and slow is what I recommend. Too fast and you may loose control. Slow moving will give you time to react. This is critical while maneuvering. These docking suggestions apply only in normal weather conditions. High winds or strong currents docking procedures will change considerably. Approaching the dock at the right angle and speed is crucial. Always try to get as close to the dock as possible without hitting the dock, if you strike the dock this may ricochet your boat uncontrollably.  If this happens you may be required to start the entire docking procedure over, that may be better than trying to recover.

Approach the dock at a 30° angle.  Approximately 5 to 6 feet from the dock start turning your boat away from the dock and at the same time reversing the engine.  On a single engine boat reverse the engine at the same approach angle increasing engine RPM speed and turning the steering towards the dock. This all has to be done almost at the same time. Your objective at this point is to slow the boat almost to a dead stop and allow the momentum of the water that you’ve created to carry your boat slowly towards the dock. Practice makes this maneuver much easier.

At this point securing your boat at the dock should be done immediately. Take advantage of the moment if not the boat will drift very quickly away from the dock. If you are docking alone prepare the center cleat in advance with a short line just to hold the boat at the dock until you’re able to apply the other dock lines. Always tie your lines away from the boat at least four or five feet from the bow and four or five feet stern leaving slack for tide changes. Dock protection equipment should be considered which is a subject for another blog. I hope you found boat docking technique tips interesting.