Everything you need to know about docking your boat - Newport Paper House


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Everything you need to know about docking your boat

Boating offers you excellent opportunities to grab some fresh air and Vitamin D. Be it for the tranquility or the extraordinary sights, you can experience life at its finest when you own a boat. You can enjoy boating solo, with a close friend, or with a loved one. Idly resting on a boat is one of life's greatest pleasures. But when the time comes to dock the boat, things get a bit more stressful. You may want to exercise due caution when parking the boat using a dock pole. Doing so will help you park the boat safely.

Here are some invaluable tips that can work in your favor when you use equipment like a dock pole to park your boat.

1. Retracting

Provide a forward spring line on which you can retreat if backing down. Once the spring line has been locked off or fastened to the dock, steer the wheel sharply to port and lower it. If your boat has twin screws, use the starboard engine to slow down and hard-cut the wheel to port. You'll start to see your boat inching closer to the dock as a result.

2. Throw the proper line

Don't ask your deckhands to begin with a bowline unless you are a deep veteran in boating. Dockhands will not be able to control the boat if it is moving against the wind. Give yourself a spring line to back away from or advance on.

Introducing the bowline

Your boat has a bowline fastened to the front. It comes in handy to support your boat while docking. You should know when to use a bowline and when to use a spring line. Many boating enthusiasts use the latter for docking purposes.

Introducing the spring line

A spring line reduces the likelihood of the boat or sailing vessel crashing into the dock. It also prevents your boat from moving forward or reversely due to waves. Additionally, you can employ this spring line to steer and align yourself close to the pier regardless of the wind speed.

3. Employ a spring

Although most dockhands are capable of using one spring line, you should consider whether you may want to give them any training. One option is to hand over the spring line so that the dock assistant lassoes it on a clamp situated beyond or ahead of the dock. They need to wrap the line rather than lock it off. Doing so allows you to move it quickly and exert maximum control.

4. Decrease your throttle

You have a fair idea about the speed dynamics of your boat. So, make sure to stick to it for smooth sailing and docking. Ensure that the boat is below a speed that allows quicker, efficient, and safer docking. When you don't press the throttle too hard, you can maneuver the boat in the right angle and direction, thereby preventing significant damage to the boat's body.

The ideal speed to go when docking your boat is S-L-O-W. Your speed should be as low as possible so that you can steer. This gives you more control, so you can dock securely without running into anything. The quickest turns can be made while moving slowly. To maintain a slow approach, you might need to take your boat out of gear.

5. Prepare your lines and fenders

Prior to arriving at the dock, fenders and lines should always be set up. You should also be aware of where the fenders should be hung. They should typically be hovering just above the water level (i.e., not in contact with the water surface). You should have a minimum of two or three fenders. Plus, experienced dockhands recommend more tools for proper docking. These include a spring line and a bow line. Lastly, you need to have a stern line to aid in your docking process.

When docking, fenders serve as barriers between your boat and the dock to prevent damage. To avoid getting caught under the pier, properly position them over the side.

6. Above all, relax

Panicking is the absolute last thing you or your crew should ever do. Getting angry at your crew, captain, or dockhands is not helpful and won't help anyone. Yelling at someone only makes the situation more stressful and increases your risk of getting into an accident. Communication is essential.

7. Utilize brief bursts

While it's crucial to move slowly to avoid hitting the dock, you might need to use brief bursts of power to get through turns and navigate through wind and currents. Between having too little and too much power, there is a happy medium. Before applying force, be sure to turn the steering wheel, which stops the boat from moving too quickly.

8. Angle your approach and change gears

You should approach the dock at roughly a 45-degree angle. This makes it simpler to aim for a specific location and dock the boat there. Turn the controls away from the dock once you are about 100 feet from the pier. Your boat's back end can then swing in toward the dock. Now shift into neutral and push the boat up against the dock with its momentum.

Then, turn the wheel in the direction of the pier. Put the gear in reverse and lightly throttle the engine. This will push the back end of the boat to the pier. Put the gear back into neutral and allow the back end to push against the pier once more.

9. Continue after the bow line

Now that you are sufficiently close have the deck worker offer the bowline to a dock assistant if possible.

Ensure the responsible person on the dock secures the bowline to the pier. But they should not exert strength while doing so. This can only make things worse and make you lose your stern. The key thing to note at this stage is not to exert too much pressure when securing the bowline to one of the pillars.

With a wrap-around cleat, you may advance with your boat forward while turning the wheel sharply to starboard. (If your ship has two screws, only use the engine of the port and make a hard turn to starboard.) Even if slowly, your boat can start to go ahead and approach the dock.

Ask your deckhand to give the dock assistant a stern line. Once you are safe, you can ask the dockhands to get your bow.

Before you dock your boat

Be aware of potential environmental influences on the docking process, such as wind and current. To determine the direction and strength of the current, observe the direction in which the flags fly, the water's ripples, pilings, and buoys.

 If you're trying to pull alongside a dock without any protection, you might want to strategically place the boats' fenders on the side you plan to tie up on. Tie-ups are located just in front of the transom, the midship, and a quarter of the way back from the bow. When finished, pause to observe how the boat responds to the wind and current.

Make sure there is enough room at the dock. Angle your approach at 30 degrees. Use intermittent power to slow the boat down and maintain forward motion for a brief period. Once the boat is parallel to the dock, turn the wheel away from it.


Hopefully, these pointers will be helpful to you in the future when docking. These details will help you avoid uncomfortable situations when you are out sailing and want to return to the mainland. Stay tuned as we at RS Marine offer more insight on docking best practices.

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