Experience is key when docking

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he last mishap that occurred when I was docking was when I reversed over the mooring line of another boat in the dock. It caused damage to the propeller and to the mooring line. Even if you are an expert at docking, there is always the possibility that things can go wrong when you bring your boat home.

[pullquote]DOCK AROUND THE CLOCK[/pullquote]Going down to the marina and taking your boat out for a spin is a lot easier than putting it back in its rightful place at the dock. With experience you will become adept at slotting your boat neatly into its berth, and this is all down to your docking style. Do you bring your boat to a standstill so far from the dock you’re your dock lines don’t reach? Are you chatting away and distracted by guests during the docking process? Are you talking on your mobile phone while you are trying to complete your docking manoeuvres? Docking is one of the most important aspects of boating to get just right. Let’s take a look at how you can improve your docking style.


Don’t rush into the dock at a high rate of knots. Rather, as you near the dock, slow things right down and ease the boat in. One of the rules of docking that every boater should follow is: “Never approach the dock any faster than you would want to hit it.”The other side of the coin is that it’s important to give enough gas so that you keep up the momentum of the boat to ensure you get close enough to the quayside. Use short bursts of power to ensure an easier manoeuvrability in docking situations.


When coming in to dock, check the water carefully around the dock for mooring lines that might be in the water that could get tangled in the propeller. If you’re unsighted at the helm, post one of the crew as a lookout.


Be cognisant of tidal action, tide levels and currents before attempting to dock as these factors can affect the boat’s approach when docking.


Coil up any excess lines that might be lying around the boat to prevent people tripping on them during the docking process. The last thing you want is for you mother-in- law to fall overboard and land in the water next to the boat.


Learn how to properly position the fenders on your particular boat when docking. Use your judgement, derived from previous dockings to position the fenders where the boat will touch the piling. Remember to position the fenders so that they are sitting firmly against the dock rather than them getting caught under the dock or swinging above the dock. Correct fender positioning will improve your all-round docking experience.


Leave the engines running until all the dock lines are secured. If the piling slips out of reach due to current flow or wind, it is far easier to rectify the situation if the engines are running. If a crew member drops a dock line, it’ll complicate the docking procedure if your engines are switched off.

Docking requires a high level of understanding about your boat and the surroundings at the dock itself.


  • #1: Always approach the dock and solid objects slowly. At least then if your docking turns into a ramming session there won’t be too much damage to the boat.
  • Dock around the clock experience is key when docking

  • #2: Always use sufficient power to get the docking job done but not too much to overshoot the mark. Enough power will be sufficient to overcome all the variables such as current, wind and momentum.
  • #3: Always look at the path to the dock carefully to ensure there are no mooring lines in the water that can get caught in the propeller.
  • Dock around the clock experience is key when docking

  • #4: In strong wind, reduce the boats windage by folding away Bimini tops and anything else that‘s catching the wind. The effect of wind on these items can throw the boat off track.
  • #5: Keep the engines on until the dock lines are secured so that you can manoeuvre if one of the dock lines is dropped into the water.
  • #6: Don’t be afraid to abort the first docking attempt and start again if the boat is not lined up correctly. Forcing your docking procedure could result in a ding to your boat.
  • Dock around the clock experience is key when docking

  • #7: Place your fenders with precision by judging correctly where your boat will nudge the piling.
  • #8: When docking with a single-engine boat, always turn the wheel before applying power. This will prevent you flying forward or reversing before the boat starts its turn.
  • #9: Make use of short bursts of power rather than steady power. This will allow you to manoeuvre the boat steadily without gaining too much momentum.
  • #10: Practice docking as much as you can and watch docking videos online to gain all the docking knowledge you can.

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