Boat Docking is Difficult or EASY…

It’s Your Choice!

It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for, you’ll probably find it on the net. Whether you need a recipe for dinner, a new gadget, to find a friend, a cure for a health condition, a news story, a You Tube sensation, or whatever, the internet is an easy, quick source of information.

BUT, how do you filter the good from the bad? Just because it’s on the net doesn’t mean it is accurate and correct. The good, bad and the ugly are all there!


I was recently surfing the net and came across a boating forum and found a posting by a boater with a 22′ center console. His name wasn’t posted, so we’ll call him Murray. Murray wanted help docking his boat stern first into his slip that had a short dock and pilings at the outer ends-usually with both cross wind and current.

The advice from the other boaters on this forum was most amusing to us. Each thought he knew how to dock and freely offered advice.

Most of them said that practice was the most important thing to do but neglected to explain what the right thing to do was and, therefore, what to practice. We all know that practice makes perfect, but only if you are practicing the right instruction-whether it’s golf, tennis, computer, driving a car, dancing or docking a boat.


Several suggested the solution was a “suicide knob” (steering wheel spinner knob). Even though this may ease turning the steering wheel from hard over to hard over, none of them said what direction to turn the wheel to accomplish a successful docking.


A few insisted that the bow should be upwind when backing into the slip.

This relinquishes control of the bow from you and surrenders it to the wind. Not a good idea. Just watch a kite. It goes where the wind wants it to go-downwind.


Many suggested tying lines on each side of the slip and walking the boat in on them. This is like going back to training wheels on your bicycle.

Why go backwards? Learning to improve would make more sense.

Others suggested using the boat hook  to push and pull against the posts. An aluminum expandable boat hook is not as strong as your motor(s) and is dangerous. Boat Hooks aren’t meant for this, but you can use them for picking your lines up off the post hooks.

A few suggested pivoting on the outer post with a spring line but didn’t explain how to come into the slip or tie the spring line for quick release.

Those who suggested the springline on the upwind post, all recommended keeping the bow into the wind. In these cases, when the boat has swung around to be lined up with their slip, the wind is now at right angles to the bow forcing the back end of the boat into the neighbour’s slip, if you don’t get the spring line released at just the right second.

The piling is your friend but you have to know how to utilize it. In this case, he should be using the downwind piling and making it and the wind work for him rather than against him.

One boater bragged about being able to dock his 36′ Twin Inboard cruiser in almost any slip in almost any conditions. But, he also admitted that backing his 17′ Centre Console Single Outboard into his slip almost panicked him when the tide was wrong. Docking a Twin Inboard requires totally different docking techniques because it handles totally differently than a Single Outboard-no wonder it was difficult for him, struggling with Twin Inboard docking techniques on a Single Outboard.

Another boater suggested asking “your marina mates” for advice or watching others dock on a windy day. Either could result in disaster if your drive systems are different. Teaching you how to dock yours, as he docks his, won’t work.

One was quite ridiculous. “Practice, practice, practice, Go Slow, Slower and Slowest and a few cocktails won’t hurt.”

Two other boaters suggested he use a boat lift instead of a slip. But, he still has to bring the boat into the boat lift and the steel boat lift is a whole lot less forgiving than wooden pilings.

The Best Advice

 Only two suggested that he hire an instructor to learn to dock, then practice. This was the best advice.

There were some other good answers, but they were all incomplete and not useful to a novice.

I am not sure which advice Murray took. The only one he should have considered was to get professional instruction from an instructor who could dock Murray’s particular boat and drive system in this slip confidently and with no excuses at all. Fran and Joe discovered that, following the wrong instruction, resulted in disaster and them wanting to quit boating all together.

You don’t need

Suicide knobs, boat hooks, ropes between pilings to walk your boat in, a boat hook, a spring line cleat, a dock wheel on a post, to give control to the wind or have a drink.

You do need

The right instructions that tell you step-by-step what to do and why.

It was entertaining for us to read this forum, but quite misleading to a boater wanting to improve his docking skills. It would be very difficult for a novice to sift through the information (mostly misinformation) to filter out a docking solution.

“Just because it’s on the net, it ain’t necessarily so!”

To help you sift through the misinformation about docking,

There is so much more to docking than just docking.

You want to be able to easily, confidently and safely maneuver your boat into your slip or alongside your dock…. without the need for yelling, swearing, jumping, boat hooks, bionics, dock helpers, guesswork or embarrassment.

Please use the information in this “17 Questions to Ask About Docking” e-Book to help you get proven docking lessons that will work for you so that docking will become second nature and make your boating much more enjoyable. Docking is easy-when you know how.

Docking is as Easy as 1, 2, 3

  • 1. Get the right instruction
  • 2. Learn from the right instruction
  • 3. Practice the right instruction

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