Boat Hook – Dangerous for First Mate

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A Skating Pro knows before a skater jumps, if it will be a bad landing, by the way the skater enters the jump.

A Golf Pro knows before a golfer hits the ball, if the outcome will be into the rough, by the way the golfer stands and swings.

A Boat Docking Pro knows, when a boater enters a harbor, if it will be a bad docking.

One of the many early signs, that a docking will be entertaining is, when a crew member is on the foredeck with a boat hook.

Using a boat hook as a docking aid, just isn’t safe for a First Mate and is more often a hindrance than a help.

 A Little History

pike pole
Pike Poles

Decades ago, pike poles with long metal-topped wood, aluminum, or fiberglass poles were used for reaching, holding, or pulling.


They were used in construction, logging, rescue and recovery, power line maintenance, and firefighting.

They were built with sharp points and sharp hooks for pushing and pulling, so they didn’t slip when pushing logs or timbers. They had 10’ to 12’ long handles.

They aren’t suitable for use on pleasure boats, because of the sharp points.

Boat Hooks

boat hook use

For boaters, boat hooks were designed as reaching assists, to help retrieve or place a loop over a piling or pick up items that fall into the water.  They have rounded ends and rounded hooks, so they won’t scratch or stick to docks or boats.

Some are telescopic for compact stowing on a boat and adjustable for easier retrieval of dock lines that are hung on pilings. They make it possible to retrieve items from the water, including items that have fallen overboard, as long as there is a loop to hook to.

Even though they are not safe or intended as a docking aid, you often see boaters use them to fend off the dock to prevent a crash or pull in the boat to the dock, when it is too far away to reach. This is not the intended use and is not safe for the First Mate.

Definition changed

Boaters without docking skills, started using the boat hook as a docking aid to help pull the boat to the dock or fend off the dock.

Over time, the definition of a boat hook changed, and now people wrongly think it is an appropriate docking aid. But, it isn’t!


Sometimes, the boat hook appears on the foredeck, sometimes in the cockpit and sometimes in both places. Everyone, but this new boater knows that boat hooks require two hands to operate with accuracy and strength.

Using it as a docking aid, you also need a third hand to hold on to the dock line and a fourth hand to hold on to the boat for balance and safety.

Few new boaters have four or more hands. LOL.

The telescoping boat hook adds to the entertainment, when the boat is about to crash into the dock, when the boat hook’s locking device releases, shrinking the pole under the brute strength of the petrified person on the pole, causing him/her to fall head over heels off the foredeck or cockpit either into the harbor and/or onto the dock.


This is not the best way to endear your partner to the joys of boating.

A Boat Hook is a reaching assist, not a boat docking aid

A boat hook should not be used as a docking aid, in my opinion, for the “falling” reasons:

falling with boat hook
  1. Telescoping boat hooks collapse unexpectedly, even if you have them tight when extended or short. If you push or pull hard enough, you collapse it or pull it apart; and then you are in trouble. You could be on the cockpit floor or overboard, then unable to assist in the docking procedure. This happens way too often!
  2. You usually need two hands to use a boat hook and it is more important to use one hand to hang on to the boat for safety and the other hand for dock line handling.
  3. When you snare a dock cleat with a boat hook and pull on it, the plastic handle can easily pop off, resulting in the pole falling into the water and sinking and you falling backwards onto the deck. When you think you’ve got a cleat hooked for pushing to fend the boat off the edge of the dock, it slides off the cleat or the edge of the dock and you end up falling in.
  4. In the process of going to the forward deck, many First Mates who get the boat hook caught in the stanchions, end up tripping over them. If they do make it to the forward deck, they find they don’t have enough hands to handle the boat hook and the dock line, so they lay it down while tossing the bow line, leaving the boat hook to roll off the deck into the harbor.
  5. In the cockpit of a mid-cabin boat with camper canvas, crew often get the boat hook tangled up in all the bows that hold the top up. They can’t move from one opening to another quickly enough to fend off the boat, like they think they can.
    The boat hook becomes more of a hindrance than a help.
  6. In heavy wind, having the First Mate use arm and hand power to fend of the heavy boat is a really bad choice. Very unsafe! There is much more power in the motor(s), than there is in your First Mate’s fingers.

Just because some boaters use a boat hook as a docking aid, doesn’t make it safe for your First Mate, or the right thing to do.
It should be used as originally intended, as a reaching pole—not a docking aid.

Better Way

  • Skaters sign up for lessons to become great skaters.
  • Golfers sign up for lessons to become golf pros.
  • Boaters sign up for lessons to navigate and learn the rules of the water.
  • Boaters who want to dock like a pro take docking lessons.

Instead of trial and error that so many boaters use to learn to dock their boats, a far better way to Dock a Boat is using proven docking techniques, that do not require a boat hook and keep your First Mate safe at all times.

Learn from a Boat Docking Pro to dock your boat without endangering your First Mate’s life with a boat hook and possibly damaging your boat or someone else’s.

Doug Dawson’s proven Docking Techniques are working for thousands of boaters worldwide, with NO need for yelling, swearing, jumping, boat hooks, bionics, dock helpers or guesswork.

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For all open-minded boaters who would really like to improve their docking skills –even just a bit, and more importantly ensure their First Mate’s safety, give it a test.

Order the Docking e-Lesson for your boat’s drive system today.

And stow your Boat Hook away!

results count

When the choices you make don’t produce the results you want, make different choices.

Pass on this article to friends with flailing and failing boat hooks.

Save a First Mate today

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