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What is Recommended When Docking Your Boat? – Rules & Proper Actions When Docking Your Boat

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

what is recommended when docking your boat

Just as with many aspects of boating, there are several rules and regulations that you have to observe. They are for your safety to prevent issues when in the waters. Moreover, they will make your life in a boat easier.

One example is the correct docking of your boat. This process may be intimidating for beginners but once you keep your head on it, you’ll realize it’s not complicated. So, what is recommended when docking your boat?

Not missing a single step will let you arrive at the desired result. Be observant of the current and wind. You also have to prepare your dock lines. More will follow as you continue reading.

Some Things to Look at When Docking Your Boat


  • Traffic

There will be times that you need to wait in line when you’re in a marina that has limited docking stations. Stay patient and polite as you communicate and cooperate with the boaters that leave and wait in line.

  • Wind and Current

The wind direction and water flow significantly affect docking. The wind can be on your face and when it happens, you have to close in on the dock at a 30 to 45 degrees steep angle. You have to secure the bow first before reversing to allow the stern to swing in.

When the wind is situated on your back, get close to the dock at a slight angle of 10 to 20 degrees. After that, halt the boat to give the wind a chance to drive it to the dock. However, approaching the dock with the wind on your face is more favorable because you have more control.

Rules and Proper Actions When Docking Your Boat


When you start learning boat docking techniques, you’ll find it relatively easy. Just be patient and follow every step to arrive at the desired result. Give yourself time to get used to the necessary procedures.

Here are the rules that every boater should adhere to when docking their craft.

Rule #1: Approach the dock at a speed that won’t cause you to crash.

Rule #2: There should be only one captain in a vessel.

Rule #3: Don’t be intimidated by difficult docking situations as you can overcome them through a measured, methodical approach. You’ll be surprised when you can do it like a pro even though you’re just new to boating.

It’s good to make a plan before putting your method into action. Simply go boating so you spend more time on the helm. You’ll not only feel better in taking the captain’s responsibilities but you will also learn to anticipate issues before they become serious.

In my case, I created a virtual slip composed of mushroom anchors from Greenfield, Attwood, and Seasense and poly balls. I even recreated it in different kinds of slips to be able to learn how to handle various situations.

Different settings show me the possible response of my boat. As mentioned above, you have to be observant of current and wind, but to my surprise, Mother Nature is an ally after all. I found that wind and current can ease out the docking process. You should also be studying the marina that you choose and be particular about the entry and the exit.

It’s vital you know where you’re going or passing to avoid conflict with other boaters. In this way, you’ll be able to foresee interfering traffic. Furthermore, you may put these questions in your mind:

  • How wide is the fairway? Can your boat fit in it?
  • Will there be a problem when you turn in and out of the slip?
  • What’s the slip’s draft?
  • Is there a need to trim up when docking? If so, will it affect your vessel’s maneuverability?
  • Are there railings, bowsprits, and other kinds of structures on your boat that might impede its maneuverability?
  • Are dinghies and bat cages present at the marina?

Rule #4: The Need to Slow Down

Number 1 has the same implication on the need to slow down. Slower speeds mean less possible damages. It gives you the chance to modify your actions and approach to prevent crashes and other accidents.

Slow movements with throttle apply to all boats even with a single-engine or multiple ones. You may guide your boat to slowly bump in and out of the gear for adjustments.

When you do this with your helm amidships, pulling or pushing the countering thrust is undeniably effective. It’s a way of steering the vessel along its length without involving the wheel.

Be reminded that brakes are nowhere to be found in boats. So, don’t tolerate short bursts of high power. You’ll find it hard to slow down when the steam is on. Again, water and wind can influence the impact of additional forward and reverse thrust. That’s why it’s important to slow down so you can get a grip when something unforeseen occurs.

Rule #5: Owning it as a Captain

As stated above, there should be only one captain in a vessel. Someone who’s beside you and acting like your shadow is not a help at all. The person who gives you advice while you have a task on hand is a distraction.

The captain is the only one who’s responsible for the safety of the crew and the vessel. The pre-docking briefing is a must even among the most experienced people. Be precise in going through every docking maneuver and the task of the crew.

You’ll also need to decide who will need to get out of the way and those who will stay seated. It’s also the captain’s responsibility to remind safety precautions among the passengers. Normally, no hands should be placed between seawalls, pilings, and bulkheads.

When docking, see to it that dock lines are not wrapped around or may tangle someone’s legs, feet, or hands.

Rule #6: Assistance from Spring Lines

You’ll be in a situation where the other vessel is in front or behind you. Your boat’s maneuverability is limited in this case, so you can’t go astern or ahead very far. Don’t worry; you won’t get stuck with assistance from spring lines.

Run a long spring line that is attached from a cleat situated on the port rail and proceeds to a cleat or port on the fuel dock. You can let go of the stern and bowlines. Then, put the engine in reverse so you can back the boat down.

Rule #7: Tying Up Your Boat

It’s time to tie up your boat when it’s parallel to the dock. Do it right away to stop your boat from drifting away. Then, you have to turn off the engine.

Sum It Up for Docking

You may have seen accidents that occurred during docking. Hence, you should know the answers for what is recommended when docking your boat? It’s for the safety of your vessel and everyone in it.

Other boats and those around you are also safe from harm when you do the imposed procedure. You don’t need to pay for damages that you may cause from wrong moves as well.

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