Once boaters figure out how to change docking from "a challenge" to a "team sport", they enjoy rather than fear it.
One boating couple, Fran and Joe (names have been changed), told me they were ready to give up boating all together because "docking was too difficult". This is their story.
Fran and Joe's Story
We had only had our boat a week and already decided that boating was too nerve-racking to be enjoyable because docking and undocking was a nightmare.
After consulting with our friends and the internet, we figured we knew how to dock our Twin I/O and started out with all the confidence in the world. "I'll come in on a 45 degree angle to the dock, you tie the bow line" Joe said. I was perched on the bow of our 30' cruiser with bow line in hand, confident and as proud as a peacock. We were following the instructions to a "T".
"Tie the bow line" Joe shouted as he brought the boat to the right position. Then, I started to panic. Why?
Because there was no one on the dock to hand or throw the line to, our bow was 4' above the dock and about 3' out. "How am I supposed to do that? The wind is blowing us away?" I cried out. "It's impossible. My arm isn't long enough and I'm afraid I won't make it if I jump".
Then, Joe started to panic. It went downhill from there. "Try reaching with the boat hook" I heard Joe call out. In my flustered state, I scrambled to get the boat hook from the cabin side and still hold on to the bow line.
I hooked the line on the end and reached out to pass it around the cleat. But, instead I dropped the boat hook overboard and got even more frantic and the damn thing sank.
Almost in tears, I retrieved the line and remembered the "throw the line" instruction.
With lightning fingers, I coiled the line and threw it out at the cleat like they told me, with a bit of a twist hoping that it would miraculously go around the cleat and come back to me like a boomerang. It didn't.
That's when Joe decided to jump. He took a flying leap to the dock and said "Throw me the line". He fought with it and finally managed to pull the boat in and tie it.
It shouldn't be this hard we both agreed but couldn't seem to master docking. The weekend we decided to put our boat up for sale and consider a motor home, we found www.BoatingWithDawsons.com . It said docking was easy and boating was fun. "Huh" we both retorted. But, we read further and decided to download the "Docking Your Twin Sterndrive" e-Lesson just to see if what Doug Dawson said was true. Maybe there was still hope for us.
Within minutes of reading through the e-Lesson, we could see why our attempts and previous instructions had failed and his method using a Stern FLIPP Line made a whole lot of sense. We mentally went through a docking scenario following the e-Lesson and Joe said "This makes so much sense. I think we can do it".
Armed with new information and new confidence to dock and tie as a knowledgeable team, we gave it one more shot. Lo and behold, we docked perfectly-the first time. And, just like Doug said, Murphy's law was at work and there wasn't a single spectator to witness this great achievement.
We've been boating now for a whole month (we decided to keep our boat) and have no trouble docking in our slip. There's no shouting, no jumping, no worry, no fear. We come in confidently and tie to the pier. Boating is now fun.
The step-by-step instructions in the e-Lesson are so easy to follow and not too technical. Joe and I have recommended our friends get the e-Lessons too, so they can take the fear out of docking and improve their skills.
We know there's more to learn and we are ready. Advanced Docking, here we come.
Frantic Fran and Jittery Joe
There are many ways to dock boats-some better than others. The dictionary definition of "docking" is "To maneuver a vessel into or next to a dock."
Doug's definition of "docking" is
"Confidently and safely bringing your boat into your slip or alongside your dock AND securing it to the dock in any conditions without yelling, swearing, jumping, boat hooks, bionics, dock helpers, guesswork or embarrassment.".
You don't have to be a professional Captain with a professional Crew. You need to know how your boat operates and handles, and how to bring it into any dock and tie it easily in all conditions. Most importantly, you should know how to do it without dock helpers.
Since different drive systems require different techniques, you need to get the instruction that applies to your boat; otherwise, you could end up even more frustrated.
Docking a boat shouldn't be difficult, challenging, stressful or embarrassing. A golf pro can teach you the techniques required to play golf. By following the pros' instructions, you can play a good game of golf. The more you practice, the better you get.
Likewise, with docking a boat. A boat docking pro can teach you the techniques required to dock your particular boat and drive system. Then, the more you practice, the better you get.
The trick is finding a good instructor in your area who can teach you on your boat.
Practice only makes perfect when you practice the correct technique.
So be sure to check out the instructor's credentials. Make sure he/she knows the design characteristics of all the boats and drive systems, can competently drive and handle every type of boat and drive system and has the ability to teach others. You could also ask for referrals and talk to others he/she has taught before hiring.
An alternative is to buy Doug's Boat Docking e-Lessons at a fraction of the price. They are not books or worrysome novels, but a series of downloadable, easy-to-follow, step-by-step lessons -- with NO hourly rate.
Download, print and take with you on the boat. It will be like having Doug with you whispering in your ear-no one will know you are taking lessons but they certainly will notice the improvement in your docking skills. You and your First Mate will learn how to "Dock like a Team" and be the envy of your dock neighbors.
Boat Docking is as Easy as 1, 2, 3
- Get the right instruction
- Learn from the right instruction
- Practice the right instruction
Then you too can dock like a pro.
For more information on Docking e-Lessons, both Introductory and Advanced, see
We'll cover some "docking aids" in a future newsletter to further simplify your docking procedure.
by Brenda Dawson