Boat Docking Techniques – Without Damaging Either
Good Docking techniques is actually easier than it sounds.
While there are many experienced and competent boaties on the water, there are equally as many novice boaties also bumping the waterways as well as the docks.
Boat Docking Techniques and Other Stuff
Weather, tides, current, winds and general water conditions will often impact on docking techniques, but a couple of useful techniques that, if mastered, will have you docking like a master mariner.
When it comes to docking techniques, practice makes perfect. While the tips provided in BoatTrax and the docking techniques we suggest, you should personalise the skills and build your strategies to your experience, your level of boat skills, and the specific nature of each dock you encounter.
Boat Docking Techniques - Common Mistakes
One common mistake that many novice boaties make is to attempt to come into the dock in a straight line. A more efficient strategy is to approach the dock at a slight angle. This will improve your docking as you make allowances for all the variables in play. Steering a boat in a straight line is much more difficult at low speeds. The very nature of the propeller rotation will steer the boat to one side.
The speed of your approach the dock must be controlled. This is more difficult than it sounds. While moving forward while idling, the speed will often be too fast. Of course, coasting a boat severely reduces the steering capacity completely. Coasting in will make it difficult to line up with the dock.
The most efficient approach is to feather the throttle between small bursts of power and coasting. Short burst will enable you to make steering deviations. Coasting slowly will allow you to make judgements about your approach. Keep your hands on the throttle as you move the boat in and and out of gear. This will require a lot of practice, usually when no one is watching.
Practice, Practice and Practice
As you come into the dock, your expertise is going to be tested. You can start to turn turn the boat towards the dock. Here you can decelerate by using reverse. Take care here and ensure the motor is going to be your friend. If you use reverse, the boat will move in the same direction as the propeller is facing.
Deceleration reduces the ability to steer a boat. You need to use the momentum of the boat to move you, ultimately towards the dock.
Speed and momentum, while similar, aren't identical.
Speed is rate at which you move, either forward or back.
Momentum is just forward motion. Here we hope the momentum of the boat will carry you smoothly into the dock.
The boat merely requires just enough momentum to move you slowly into your dock. This will give you the chance to make a smooth shift into reverse to bring the boat to a fluid stop.
pproach is the best.
Trial and error are great teachers. With practice you will reduce the errors. Seriously though, even the most experienced boatie will tell you about a docking blooper. We all have them.
That is what fenders are for. If we were all experts fender makers would go out of business. The best docking technique is the one that you learned yourself with all the individual factors of your specific situation. Practice and practising again is a great teacher.
The one single, and most valuable, piece of advice is to take your boat docking techniques slowly. Put your nerves on hold and don't get discouraged should you have a bad docking. Every time you dock your boat will build your confidence as a skipper. If you feel it appropriate, ask an experienced boatie to become your mentor. This will help you build confidence further.
We all know that a confident approach is the best.