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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.


thank-youFather's Day is on Sunday, June 16th and Brenda and I would like to wish all the fathers out there a Happy Father's Day.

I'd also like to share a story of What My Father Taught Me about boating.

Being 5th generation in the boating business, I consider myself extremely fortunate and grateful to my father who was over-qualified to teach me at a very young age how to handle and dock all types and sizes of boats from 14' to 60'—power and sail at our family marina.

I realize now how truly fortunate I was when I see so many boaters unable to dock their boats as easily as they should. Obviously, they didn't have a "docking expert" for a father. Thank you Dad!

Dad taught me ....

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questionWally, a boater in New York, wrote to us with the following docking question. Our answer may help you if you are in a similar situation.

Wally asked "I had a question regarding the "FLIPP" line. Actually I have been using a variation of it on my 26 foot Bayliner single stern drive taught to me by a captain I hired for a boat handling lesson. Its using a spring line attached to the midships cleat. A loop on the end of the line is put over a dock post and the helm is turned fully away from the dock. This glues the boat alongside the dock.

I was wondering if there was a critical angle of the bow from the dock at which point the maneuver wouldn't work? If so, what tactic would you advise in that situation? Thanks."

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help-boatAll those boaters who need dock helpers to dock their boats, might as well put a big flashing neon billboard on the roof.

"I can't dock my boat. Help!"

They are snickered at by boaters who have learned how.

People who have taken lessons and learned to do something well, can easily spot those who have not—whether it is golf, tennis, dancing, computering, skiing, swimming, cards, etc.

Docking is no different. Boaters who have learned how to dock their boats can easily identify boaters who need lessons.

You will be pleased to know....."It's not your fault!"

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fuel-dock-wind-offWay too often, boaters find that docking is a difficult task. So much so, that First Mates and Crew are reluctant to go boating again or, if they do, they don't enjoy coming back to the dock.

Last summer, I watched a twin sterndrive cruiser attempt to pull into the low floating fuel dock. The wind was blowing hard off the dock, so he was coming in against the wind. He pulled up parallel to the dock and stopped so that his First Mate could perform a miracle—securing an amidships line to the low floating dock cleat from the high side deck. You guessed it, before she could do anything, the boat was blown away from the dock.

The Captain put his outside motor in forward to bring in the bow, then neutral. Next he pulled the outside motor in reverse to bring in the stern, a maneuver that helped the wind blow him further from the dock.

As most boaters know, when you screw up, there are "experts" everywhere telling you what you should do or should have done. The five "expert" advice tips he got that day from the five coaches on the picnic table, are:

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It doesn’t matter which harbour we visit, we witness so many power boaters making the same common docking mistakes.

It is almost like they have taken lessons to dock badly, and they keep repeating their bad docking procedure over and over and over again. They get really good at bad docking! Very few sailors on the other hand, have difficulty docking their sailboats.

The worst part of it is that the crew gets upset, there is usually a lot of yelling, sometimes there is injury (certainly potential for injury) and often times damage to the boat or a neighbor’s boat or dock. Too many times, family members don’t want to go boating again as result.

The good news is that these power boat docking mistakes are so easily corrected. Some of the most common docking mistakes we see are….

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Pivot_PointThe pivot point of a boat seems to be a topic of much interest and there is a lot of confusion surrounding what it is, where it is and how it affects boat docking.

Some of the boating forums we visited have many self-proclaimed experts challenging and arguing with each other about who has the correct answer and why it is important. One "expert" insisted that physics was his area of expertise and insisted that the pivot point was between the propellers while other "experts" and boaters challenged him and argued with him.

Simply put, the pivot point is......

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bad-dockingThe internet is a great source of entertainment and misinformation—especially when it comes to docking a boat. A 30-second video, just doesn't cover it!

You may have seen the YouTube "how to dock a boat" video of the "show off" Captain bringing a yacht in bow first to a parallel dock and turning the boat perfectly with the hull just inches from the dock. Not a word of instruction of what he is doing at the helm.

Or, the "Yahoo" who comes in at great speed on a sailboat and turns at the last minute with just the right momentum, to come alongside the dock perfectly.

You may also have seen the Captain who instructs boaters to approach at about 45 degrees in a twin inboard flybridge, then pivot so that it slides parallel against the dock, lining up his spring line cleat with the dock cleat, so his crew can step off the side deck with the line and tie it.

They look impressive, but....

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Is docking your power boat an easy procedure, as it should be? Do you confidently and safely bring your boat into your slip or alongside your dock AND secure it to the dock in any conditions without yelling, swearing, jumping, boat hooks, bionics, dock helpers, guesswork or embarrassment?


  • Does your docking procedure get "screwed up" by a gust of wind at the last minute?
  • Is the cleat too far away for your crew to reach? or even worse 
  • Does the dock hit your hull as you approach?
  • Maybe you find that when you turn the wheel to bring your stern in closer to the dock, it goes further away instead?
  • Do you have visibility problems where you can't see your First Mate or Crew for superstructure?

If you are experiencing these or other "screw ups" and are having difficulty docking, you may be interested to know, that it's NOT YOUR FAULT!

There are good reasons to explain why Docking a Power Boat is Difficult.

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houseboat-sterndrive-smAs promised, we have been working on Houseboat Docking Lessons as follows:

  1. Docking Your Houseboat--Single Outboard and Sterndrive
  2. Docking Your Houseboat--Twin Outboards and Sterndrives
  3. Docking Your Houseboat--Twin Inboards


Just in Time for Christmas

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last-slipOf all the power boat docking challenges we reviewed over the past two weeks for our “Most Difficult Docking Challenge”, John Heasman had the most difficult by far. But, he didn’t stump the expert!

rocks-in-slip“I am a new boater this spring and have a 270 Prowler Cruiser with a single I/O. My slip is the last one at the end of the fairway with the prevailing wind coming straight at me as I head down the fairway to my slip."

"The other side of my slip is a rip rap stone wall sloping into my slip space.  To dock, I come down the fairway and turn to starboard to enter my slip against the wind, but I still end up “on the rocks” on the other side of my slip. I am already on my second propeller. We boat a lot when there are no dock helpers around so I have to be able to do it with just me and my First Mate. How can I dock in my slip so that I land on my dock and not the rocks?”

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