8 Tips On How To Dock A Boat

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Docking a boat certainly is not the easiest thing to do and little resembles parking a car. A boat is constantly in motion and forces can create unpredictable movement. You need to learn how to counter and maneouver with these forces in order to dock smoothly. A firm knowledge of your boat and of how to handle it goes without saying.

1. PREPARATION – It is advisable that you contact the dock master via VHF a good 30 minutes before arriving at the marina. This is to ensure that there are no obstructions, traffic or unsuitable conditions that would hamper your ability to dock. They will also allocate you a suitable space so that you do not have to look too hard to find a good one. Calling ahead to someone on land, whether that be a dock master or your friend, is important so that they know where you are, when, where you are going and what to do at the marina to assist.

2. SPEED – Approaching too quickly can mean you either miss the spot or you collide with it. Boats have no sharp braking system, so over-powering your approach is a big mistake. Working with your boat regularly will help you to guage the momentum you require to reach the target. Remember, be cautious but in control. Short ‘bursts’ of power are advised so that you can keep in control of the vessel’s momentum and maneouvre accordingly before it gets out of hand! Remember, throw the boat into reverse to slow up but again be wary not to over-power in the wrong direction.

3. CHECK – Always thoroughly examine the area that you are docking in, regardless of how many times you have done it before. There are all kinds of hazards such as mooring lines. If you have anything tangle in the propellor then you are looking at potentially more damage than a bump.

4. TWIN INBOARDS – Be wary of the wheel postion when docking. It is especially advised to leave your wheel centred and use only the engines to maneouvre in a boat with twin inboards. If you try to steer with both then they will only interfere with eachother. If the prop-wash hits the rudder that could dramatically shift your direction and control.

5. ENGINES – Unlike parking a car it is advised to leave the engine on when having docked successfully to counter any forces that might throw the boat out of position before it has been secured. When docking in a single-engined boat always steer before applying the power and not during or after so that you do not get a blast of forward or reverse before the blast of port or starboard occurs.

6. FENDERS – Learning to place these with precision will give you a marginal ‘fail-safe’ if you do over shoot. The best boaters are those that can dock with confidence knowing that they have the pressure points covered. Also, if you accidentally collide with another docked or docking boat then they may just save you some embarrasment. If they catch under or dangle over the pier then you might as well not have them.

7. CREW – Having trained people on hand is vital when docking. You need them to prepare and secure the vessel when both docking and undocking. It is essential that everyone on board and on land knows exactly what they need to do, but importantly that the driver can communicate effectively to co-ordinate the maneouvre.

8. ABORTING – Do not be afraid to circle around and try again. Better safe than sorry!

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