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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.


mom-small-child-2Young families buying boats today, want to enjoy the boating lifestyle.

What better way to spend quality family time together, than on the water in your boat.

The whole family can participate in so many water related activities unlike other sports, that are targeted to one family member at the exclusion of all others.

But, we hear over and over and over again that there is a real obstacle that is keeping families from enjoying boating…

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dock-bow-line-firstPower Boaters have all seen diagrams like this one with instructions to tie the bow line first when docking. Just look at the internet.

Safety Associations, Boating Associations, Magazines, Instructors are all touting, this as the way to dock all recreational power boats.

To me, this only makes sense for bowriders and houseboats; but, for all other power boats, it does NOT make any sense at all. In fact, on most power boats, it can even be dangerous for the First Mate, being relegated to the forward deck to tie the bow line first.

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defever-44-morning-sun-jeffersThanks to Bill Jeffers in Georgia for his suggestion to write an article, on single handed docking of a twin inboard Trawler. Many boaters, like him, want to be able to take their boats out for a cruise without crew and then be able to dock it on their own, when they return to their slip.

In this article, I will answer Bill’s question and cover single handed docking of a Twin Inboard Trawler. These instructions won’t work for other boats. Each drive system and type of boat requires different docking instructions and each is covered in detail in Dawson’s Docking e-Lessons. Single handed docking of all other boat styles are covered in the “Advanced Docking e-Lesson for each drive system.

Bill’s suggestion:

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red-amphicarFor most of us, parking a car is something we do every day, whether it’s in a designated parking lot with or without lines outlining the parking space, in a parking garage, or on the side of a roadway. The law requires us to take a test before getting our driver’s license, and we must be able to actually park the car or other vehicle in order to pass the test. Unless, of course, you have an amphicar, then the rules change.

We learn how the car responds to the steering wheel, the brakes, and the throttle. Also, we must be able to drive into or back into a parking space, often between two other vehicles, ending up perfectly in the space every time. Sure, sometimes you may not line up perfectly the first time, so you stop and try again. But, hitting or scratching another vehicle or object isn’t an option.

Many boaters think that “parking” their boat is like parking a car; but, they are wrong because....

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wakeboard-boatThousands of single Inboards are sold every year with NO instruction for docking.

Dawsons “Docking Your Single Inboard” e-Lesson has helped so many boaters over the years and we are happy to report that we have added 120 pages to the e-Lesson of step-by-step detail on docking in all wind conditions as many have requested. It is now 151 pages with 178 diagrams and pictures for you, a fsingle inboard stubbornnessamily member or your buddies.

Every Single Inboard owner knows that his boat is stubborn, and has a one-track mind. This “port prop pull stubbornness in reverse” often creates a dreaded, embarrassing disaster at the dock. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

They are not “impossible to dock”. A Single Inboard can be controlled and docked smoothly every time, when you know how to outsmart it.

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Fenders are your boat’s best friend!

fender-upfender-downThe majority of fenders are air filled vinyl cushions that hang on a fender line providing padding between the hull of the boat and a dock or other object. Some people mistakenly call them “bumpers”; but, just like the kitchen belongs in your house, bumpers belong on a car or on your dock—not a boat.

Without fenders, the dock will always win when the dock and the boat make contact. Your boat will look battered in no time. This can happen either during the docking process or as a result of strong wind or current. Sometimes, even your slip neighbor is the unsuspecting culprit, when his poorly tied lines come loose, allowing his boat to blow against yours.

Everybody knows that fenders are a “must have” for your boat to protect it from scrapes, scratches, gouges or much worse.

What most boaters don’t know, is what to do with their fenders after they leave the dock. So, what do you do with them?

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All docks and slips are “NOT CREATED EQUAL”

marina-de-hullNo two marinas are the same and all dock layouts are different. As you discovered in the “Starboard or Port Tie” article, you have to consider many factors to figure out which side is the preferred docking side for your boat. That eliminates about half the docks right off the bat. Some slips are suitable for your boat and some are ideal for others.

If you are having difficulty docking in your slip, you may have the wrong slip for your boat! Slips aren’t like parking spaces where you can park any car in any space. Some slips suit your boat and some don’t.

Many boaters are assigned a slip location without taking into consideration all the factors; as a result, your docking is much more difficult than it would otherwise be if you were assigned the correct slip.

So, what do you need to know
before signing up for a slip for the season?

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docking-starboard-sideIs docking on the starboard side better than docking on the port side? Like just about everything else in boating, it depends….

Many boaters say you should always dock on the starboard; but, in some cases, it would be far better to dock on the port side.

In other cases, boaters say you should always dock port side, but that isn’t always the case either.

It depends on many factors and, when you know what they are and take them into consideration, you will know on which side to dock your boat.

So what are some factors to consider?

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To Wheel or Not to Wheel — That is the Question

Using the wheel to dock a power boat"Yes,

you do use the wheel when docking twin power boats" says one boater.


you don't use the wheel when docking twin power boats" says another.

There is great confusion around the question "should I use the wheel when docking my twin engine power boat?"

Which boater is right? Both are right and both are wrong. It depends on several factors, but most importantly, whether you are docking twin inboards or twin sterndrives or twin outboards.

Most other instructions for docking twins don't differentiate between sterndrives and inboards.  There is even a YouTube video by a well known Magazine Captain that advises boaters to dock their twin sterndrive using the twin inboard method. What works for one, doesn't work for the other. Doug knows better and he can show you how and why they are different.

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confused-question4If your driving instructor told you that you may not be able to stop your car at the light every time, or that you couldn't predict the turning circle when you turn at a intersection, or that the same instructions are suitable for a small sports car and a transport truck, would you take lessons from him? Imagine the chaos!

If your docking instructor told you that you can't always dock your boat the way you want to or that the same instructions are suitable for a bowrider and a motor yacht, or all twin I/O's and T I/B's handle the same way, or that nobody has it figured out yet, or to secure the bow line first when docking or can't dock your boat with ease, would you take lessons from him? Imagine the chaos!

The fact is...

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