How to Properly Dock Your Boat

If you’re new to boating, here are some tips that will help you to learn how to dock properly.  Learning this early will allow you to avoid damaging your boat or embarrassing yourself.  You have to be familiar with handling the boat, dealing with the wind and the currents so you will always be prepared to deal with unforeseen incidents.

How to Properly Dock your Boat

If you’re a newbie to boating in Jacksonville, you are probably looking forward to that first outing and really feeling like a true Florida boater.  There is much to learn before that first trip.  One of the many things to learn is how to properly dock your boat.

It’s best to learn the proper ways to do it from the beginning to ensure your boat is safe and you don’t end up in an embarrassing situation.  Below is your guide to proper boat docking.

The approach

You should approach slowly and remember that you should “never approach a pier any faster than you’re willing to hit it” since it’s very easy to accidentally lose sight of a spot on your boat.  If you are approaching slowly and ram the boat into the pier, it should be light enough that no damage occurs.

By the same token, you need to give it enough speed and momentum to actually get close enough to the pier to hand over a line or step on the dock without overdoing it.  This also means that you have to take into consideration what the current & wind are affecting your movement toward the pier.  The current & wind will move your boat whether you like it or not…  so use it to your advantage.

Always look carefully before you dock even if you’ve done it many times.  Mooring lines can get tangled in your propeller or another nearby.  Don’t let them lay in the water or trail behind you.

Don’t touch the wheel with twin inboards

Now that you’ve become more proficient at approaching the pier, you need to be aware of some of the basic principles of good docking.  If you have twin inboards, you’ll want to center the wheel and not use it to dock or go into a slip.  Use “throttles only”.  If you turn the wheel, you have additional motion [that you can’t see coming] working against smooth placement.

Wait to kill the engine

Once you’ve docked the boat and you feel good about your setup, you may be ready to turn off the engine.  It’s actually best to wait until all lines are secure to turn off the engines.  You never know when a crew member might drop a line and the boat will need more maneuvering.

It’s OK to start over

If you feel like you haven’t approached as well as you would like or the wind is blowing you around forcing you out of position, just remember that you can start over by pulling away from the dock and make a new approach using the knowledge you have learned from the first try.  Just circle back for another try…  this is much better than trying to force the boat into an even worse situation.  Even the most experienced boaters sometimes have to start over and if you are new to boating, you need to be willing to practice until you get it right.