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Articles to Simplify Boat Docking

There are lots of tips and tricks to help you simplify docking your boat. The following articles could help you or a friend overcome a docking obstacle. Please submit any suggestions so that we can add them in future.


surprise“My boat slowly and smoothly slid into my slip alongside the dock as it always does. I have perfected your FLIPP Line™ procedure and docking is easy for me and my First Mate. She attaches the FLIPP Line™ and we are secure. I can count on her.” Explained Dan.

“However, today was different. My First Mate wasn’t with me, but my son-in-law insisted he knew how to tie the FLIPP Line™, so I let him do it. My son-in-law jumped onto the dock, secured the Stern FLIPP Line™, then let me know I was secure” continued Dan.

“As the boat edged deeper into the slip, the boat pulled the FLIPP Line™ off the dock cleat. The boat crunched against the main walkway.

Why? What happened?” asked Dan in surprise and shock.

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what-do-I-do“I have your Sailboat Docking e-Lesson and my First Mate and I love your docking procedure. It makes so much sense and has made a huge difference to our docking confidence. But, I have a challenge that isn’t covered in the lesson” Mike wrote.

“On my 41’ Sailboat, I must stand to steer so I can see over the coach roof. The gearshift/throttle is at the floor and is only 9 inches long. So, when I need to change gear or adjust the throttle, I have to sit to reach the low, short lever. The problem is that when I stand up again, the boat is heading in the wrong direction. This is a real problem when docking.

My question is, How do I steer and shift gears at the same time so I can keep my boat aimed where I want it to go, especially in close quarters where it is more critical.

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windIt was perfectly calm when Derek left the harbour to go out for a peaceful afternoon cruise all by himself. Relaxing on the water didn’t last long though. Calm became chop when the wind came up out of nowhere. While heading back to the harbor, the chop tuned to waves and white caps as the wind intensified.

By the time he got back to the harbor, the wind was really howling offshore.

He had stored all his fenders and stowed all his lines, before heading out and now it was too rough to prepare them for docking.

Being alone, he knew he would never be able to dock his boat single handedly. He feared the worst and was ter

rified at the possibilities of all that could go wrong.

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snakeHow often have you seen boats weaving their way across the water, unable to keep heading in a straight line? Maybe you have even experienced this snaking yourself.

Sometimes, it is because the Captain is over-steering—first too far one way, then too far the other way. It is primarily because he doesn’t know how to aim his boat.

When cruising, it is very important to know where “top dead centre” is, so that you can steer straight. It reduces the back and forth of the wheel, and over steering.

But, just locating “top dead centre” on your wheel to steer straight, is not the whole solution. You also need to know how to aim your boat so that it follows a straight line to a destination point—near or far.

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captain-wheelErnst asks “How do I find the centre of my wheel when docking my Twin Inboard?

I must use the wheel hard over as well as using the shifts, because it is so windy and I can never get the wheel back to centre.

Then the boat doesn’t go where I expect.

Even though Ernst has a Twin Inboard, this article applies to all drive systems—power and sail.


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341-meridianDocking in ideal conditions is relatively easy—especially if you are going very slowly and there are dock helpers waiting.

By practising the proper docking procedure, you’ll get really good at it and not need any assistance.

But, we all know that most of the time there is a breeze or a wind and/or current that takes over.

Sometimes Mother Nature throws in a little rain as well just to make it even more interesting.

The wind and weather can turn a perfect docking into a disaster in a flash, unless…

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conflict2There seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there as to the best method to maneuver and dock a Twin Sterndrive. Many boaters still believe that all twins should be docked like twin inboards. We get this question repeatedly and here is an example from Koenraad in Australia.

Question: "Doug, I'd like to ask a question around manoeuvring a twin sterndrive boat as I keep hearing conflicting information from my boating buddies. My boat's propellers turn towards each other, in other words, one clockwise and the other one anticlockwise. I believe they are Bravo III mercruiser sterndrives. I've been told that given this, I should turn the boat putting one engine forward and the other one in reverse to optimise my turning space. This is obviously a contradiction to your recommendation.

In light of getting a better understanding on this, could you please let me know your thoughts on this? Also, would it make any difference in the way I would park the boat on to a berth or in a marina?" Kind regards, Koenraad.

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Docking Your Pontoon e-Lesson is now available. 

As all Pontoon owners know, Pontoon boats have many features, but...

pontoon boat docking

  • They don’t behave.
  • They don’t handle like other outboards.
  • They don’t turn when you want them to.
  • They don’t stay put when you stop.
  • They don’t do what you expect when you get anywhere near the dock.
  • There aren’t any good handling and docking lessons out there.


We wrote the book from scratch with decades of experience, then time at the helm, testing and refining handling techniques, writing, proofing, diagrams, and pictures.

There are 160 pages of step-by-step instruction.

It’s a “must have” for all Pontoon ownerswww.PontoonDocking.com

i-didnt-know-my-boat-would-do-thatI didn’t know my boat would do THAAAAT!”

I often hear this statement of amazement when teaching boaters (both power and sail) to handle their boats in the confines of a marina or harbour.

What’s even more amazing, is that boaters don’t get instruction to learn what hidden talents their boats have. All boats are different, but once you learn what your boat will and won’t do, you are in control.

Operating your boat in open water doesn’t require near as much skill as maneuvering in close quarters in the confines of a marina or a harbour where you and others may be in the same fairway docking at the same time. You can’t just steer away like you can on open water. You have to know how to make your boat do exactly what you want it to do. For example; when someone pulls out in front of you, or a kid in a dinghy decides to cut you off, you may have to hold a stationary position for several minutes until he gets out of the way—even if it’s windy.

What talents would you like to discover about your boat?

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surpriseThere are three main reasons for buying twins—better maneuverability, better performance for a larger boat, and assurance that you still have power if one engine quits for whatever reason.

But, what if one quits? You need to know how to handle and dock your twin inboard, twin sterndrive or twin outboard with just one live motor. It’s totally different than docking with both running, and different than docking a single engine boat.

Thanks Rod Brebner for suggesting an article to cover docking with one dead motor. In his case, it was the starboard engine, so he had no power steering.

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