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How to Dock a Pontoon Boat? Know The Steps Well (Best Tips)

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

how to dock a pontoon boat

Docking a pontoon can be embarrassing and frustrating if you do it the wrong way in front of a crowd. To avoid such circumstances, you have to learn how to dock a pontoon boat.

With guidance from this article, dedication, and practice, you’ll get the hang of it. It’s similar to parking a car. You have to slowly approach the dock and choose which side of the boat you’ll be docking.

Be particular with the cleat’s location where you’ll tie a pontoon boat to a dock using your bow lines. The dock’s height is also vital so you can adjust the fenders that

protect your boat. For more information, read on.

Places Where You Can Dock a Pontoon Boat


Stationary Dock

Based on the meaning of its name, this dock is permanently built so you’ll find it in a fixed place. It has a typical appearance supported with poles and posts. Experts say that this is the best option for protecting your boat from waves and wind.

But there’s a downside as there’s a chance for your boat to bang against the dock. There’s a high chance for this to happen when the dock lines are not long enough to allow movements caused by water depth, tides, or current from the dam.

Floating Dock

This type of dock is placed where water depth fluctuates like shorelines and deep water bays. It’s also permanent like the stationary dock. The difference is that it’s always expected to float up and down due to the changes in the water depth.

Portable Dock

This is removed and kept during off-season as pontoons are stored on land. It’s usually used in areas that have ice on the water. When water turns solid during winter, a portable dock is the ideal choice because snow or ice can easily damage the stationary type.

A portable dock is always positioned on a fairly even ground. It’s also made compact to wheel the dock on it.

Boat Lift

It’s open to a simple way of docking a pontoon boat. You can utilize it to completely lift the pontoon out of the water. It’s an action that can stop corrosion and mishaps due to shifting water depth.

Normally, a boat lift is with a stationary dock. Use it is an extra safety measure so the development of algae, barnacles, and mussels are prevented.

How to Prepare for Pontoon Boat Docking

Preparations are essential before you hit the dock, and you can ask help from the people onboard. You have to take out your fenders and dock lines. Someone needs to man the lines and be ready to get off the boat to tie them.

Take note of these:

Also, you have to keep an eye on the wind and current. It’s best if you approach a dock into the wind to control the boat’s speed. Note that pontoon boats are sensitive to cross winds.

The Need to Enhance Your Vision


The fence around the deck can block the pontoon sightlines of someone seated on the helm seat. It gets worse as you move closer to the dock. An adjustable helm seat is great as you can raise it four to six inches to improve the vision.

Boat seat pedestals can help you with this concern. You can choose from reputable manufacturers such as Attwood, Wise, and Springfield Marine.

But you can do the following things:

  • Stand at the helm and slide the helm seat backward. You have to tilt the steering wheel and try to stand on the helm. These actions will assist you to view forward to the port or the dock.
  • You may also kindly ask your guests to make way and clear the sightline. They may sit down or move to the rear seat. Those who stand on the deck forward will also block the view.
  • Open the front boarding gate to have a better way of calculating the approach as you go forward. This should be done when there’s a pier at the slip’s head.

Why is it Essential to Slow Down When Approaching the Dock

It’s essential to slow down when approaching the dock as it gives you ample time in making decisions and reacting at will. Ideally, you only need to tap the dock rather than banging it because excessive force creates damages.

  • As you get near the dock, you can bump the pontoon in and out of the gear. The steering control is still in your hands even when slow speed is applied.
  • Expect that the pontoon glides a long distance on its momentum.
  • Shift to reverse and seize the speed when you’re 10 feet away from the dock or the area that you will let your pontoon to stop.

Steps to Dock a Pontoon Boat

  • You have to put your pontoon on the neutral mode as you begin to coast towards the dock slowly. At the same time, you need to trim the motor because the water is shallower when it’s close to the dock. The prop needs to be in the water so the steering capabilities are not interrupted. It’s advisable to raise it a bit to prevent damages.
  • Continue to approach the dock slowly. Beginners must be aware of this to dock safely. Placing your pontoon in neutral will not respond as much as when it’s in gear. When you’re in gear, the risk of collisions increases.
  • Give time to reverse your boat as you get closer to the dock. It’s better to put your pontoon on the neutral when you’re 20 feet away from the dock. The weight of the vessel will help you to drift closer to the dock.
  • When your pontoon boat is about halfway to the distance of the dock or when you think you’re ready, put it in reverse and use a little gas to halt. Pick the pillion and start tying your boat with the line on the dock.

Knowing Your Pontoon Boat to Help You With Proper Docking

Pontoon boats are different from each other. You have to know the characteristics of the one that you own to make docking trouble-free. Hence, you have to be aware of the following things:

  • The amount of space essential when making a turn
  • The amount of force when putting the pontoon in neutral mode
  • The way your pontoon handles various speed
  • The effects of the wind and current on your method of handling the pontoon

Experience will teach you about these things. You can practice turning your pontoon in an area with a lot of space. If you do it, you’ll gain ideas on the proper ways of handling and docking your boat. Fenders can absorb the impact and you won’t likely knock against the dock.

Wrap it Up to Properly Dock a Pontoon Boat

The handful tips in this article can give you confidence in practicing or executing steps on how to dock a pontoon boat. Put the words into action to improve your skills. Proper docking is also a part of safety measures when sailing with your pontoon. Keep an eye on every important detail to prevent from clashing against the dock.

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