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Boat Docking Techniques

Anchoring & Docking > Boat Docking Techniques

Docking can be quite a task sometimes, depending on traffic and even wind conditions. Even those of us who have “learned the ropes” from years of boating can still benefit from proper docking techniques. By following a few simple steps, docking can be done a lot faster and easier. These techniques can also be applied in windy conditions.


1. Approach the dock at an angle. Depending on conditions, you will want to approach the dock at about a 30 degree angle. This will help you aim for the right spot on the dock.

2. Approach as slow as possible.  Usually the lowest speed on the throttle setting is the speed you want to be at.  Some boats have a fairly fast idling speed,  in which that case,  idle will be the ideal speed.   ** Remember that at slow speeds, steering is at its minimum. In order to make course corrections, the best method is to use short, intermittent “power-ups”, a small burst of speed with the necessary steering correction, then back down to slow speeds, coasting in.

3.  Use the momentum.  Boats in momentum will continue that momentum for long periods (in good conditions) at the angle originally set.  As mentioned above, use small bursts of speed to make course corrections, but otherwise, keep the momentum up and you can coast smoothly into bay. Otherwise, the maneuver of docking becomes a “25-point turn” with multipleattempts.


No wind, or wind pushing away from the dock:


1. Cast off and bring in all lines and fenders.  A firm push is all you need to give the boat some initial momentum.

2. Drift until you reach a safe distance.  Make sure you drift out far enough to give the stern clearance from the dock.  When you throttle forward on a turn, the rear needs additional clearance.

With wind pushing you in towards the dock:

1.  Cast off all lines except the bow spring line. This will keep the bow connected to the dock for easy maneuverability.

2.  Swing the stern away from the dock.  Angle the engine towards the dock (turning the wheel towards the dock) with the bow still attached, and slowly throttle forward.

3.  Step into reverse. After the stern has angled away from the dock, switch to reverse, and at the same time release the bow spring line. Reverse until you get proper clearance.


Ramp Etiquette

Entering the water:

#1- Prep the boat before you actually get to the water.  You will anger a lot of people if you pull down the ramp apron and then stop and proceed to undo straps, take the cover off, etc..  You can undo everything and take off all unnecessary equipment, before you get to the launch. 

#2- Take turns, and be patient.  Believe it or not, there is usually an order to the chaos on the ramps.  For the most part, people keep track of who is next in line.  Pay attention, and stake out the situation before actually plowing down the ramp. 

#3- Standardize your launch process.   There are many techniques boaters use to actually get the boat in the water.  Any method is o.k. just as long as you are comfortable with it.  But if you get a routine down, then you can save time and hassle.

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