If you’ve never docked a boat before, or you’re still learning how, then the thought of this routine part of boating might make you feel a bit anxious. But don’t worry... we’ve got all the insider secrets, tips, and tricks you need to know to learn how to dock like a seasoned pro, right here!
Beginner’s Guide to Docking a Boat
First time docking? Haven’t docked in a while and need a refresher? Here are four quick, easy steps to help you safely dock a boat:
1. Prepare for the Approach
There is a lot you can prepare for docking a boat before you even reach the dock. Make sure you’re ready to dock by untangling your dock lines and having them attached at the bow and stern. Lower your fenders before starting your approach to protect your boat and the dock from damage. Check that they are securely tied to your boat cleats with fender lines. Then, you can get into position.
2. Line Up for the Approach
First, it’s generally recommended that you dock on the port side. You’ll be making slow, deliberate movements when you dock, so the way your boat’s propeller moves makes it easier for you when you dock on the left. To line up, start by finding your angle. You’ll do this by moving your boat’s bow into a position that creates about a 45-degree angle with the dock. Then, determine your line of entry. Find a visual cue and keep your bow pointed slightly behind where you want to dock your boat.
3. Come Alongside the Dock
Maintain your angle as you move your boat alongside the dock toward your docking point. This is a good time to make sure you have your lines in hand. If you’ll be in an area with current or wind that are moving parallel to the dock, this can make it easier to control your direction. Just move into them at a slower speed or in reverse, because adding the boat’s speed on top of the natural push you’re already getting could make you lose control of the boat.
If the current or wind are working against you, this is where experience will come in handy. Remember to stay calm, and move slowly, gently accelerating or going into reverse as needed to maneuver your boat. We highly recommend bringing a friend to help as you learn how to dock a boat, especially in less-than-perfect circumstances.
4. Tie Off the Boat
If you’ll have someone with you, it’s helpful to have them wait on the dock. Once you’re within throwing distance, you can toss them your line and have them tie it off on the dock’s cleats. However, if you’re alone, you’ll want to tie the line in a loop on the dock’s cleats and use it to pull your boat into position. Correct the position, and then tie it off using a figure eight pattern before you step off the boat.
Tips and Tricks for Docking a Boat Like a Pro
It may seem overwhelming the first few times you dock your boat, but with practice it’ll soon become as routine as driving a car. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind to help you look like a seasoned pro at the boating dock:
- Take it slow. If you’re already anxious about docking your boat, it can be easy to rush the process, but remember that safety comes first and going too quickly opens the opportunity for error. Keep your boat moving at a comfortable speed throughout the docking process. A comfortable speed should be one that allows for micro-adjustments.
- Be deliberate. It may take some trial and error to figure out the right angle for docking your boat. Just remember that every movement you make should be deliberate and purposeful. This tip will be even more important if you ever find yourself docking in inclement weather or current.
- Maintain control. Never accelerate toward the dock. Never go faster than a speed you can easily control and maneuver. And always remember to account for wind and current. Staying in control of your boat is crucial for your safety, and that of anyone else at the boating dock.
Remember that practice makes perfect, and nothing can replace experience when it comes to learning how to dock a boat. As you’re learning, try to bring a friend with you, and go on days there will be less traffic. With less people around and nobody waiting to dock behind you, you can reduce anxiety and take more time to practice docking.