We’ve all heard horror stories of bad boat dockings—some of us have even experienced them.
There is nothing worse than a bad docking to put a damper on boating, a bruise on your ego, total embarrassment and too often a dent in your bank account. Well, maybe, like when “the tides went out a bit faster than expected while we were at the back side of Crane’s Beach at the mouth of the Essex River.”
John has sent us his docking story and you will be amazed at what he had to overcome to dock his boat—and, he did!
“I’m not writing so much with a story as a heartfelt “Thank You.”
I purchased a 21 foot Larson with outboard three years ago and engaged the valet service at my marina here in the Boston area to trailer in and out the boat when I wanted to go out. With that being said and after much reading about how to handle an outboard, I was still customarily missing the dock and having my crew perform antics to get us to the dock.
I even mistakenly spun the boat around into the dock while trying to back out one day. I boated with a certain sense of dread…I didn’t really understand how to make the boat do what I wanted it to do…and when it did I was left thinking “I wonder what I did to make it do that?”
This year I was offered a slip, though the slip is buried among three boats which would involve me getting past a boat to dock ahead of it while another boat was already docked on my other side inside the same dock fingers. I stressed. I knew slip offers don’t come up often in this area, but I really had no idea how on earth I was going to shoehorn my boat in there. I needed a jumpstart to make this boating season work.
The red arrow shows my slip and you have to imagine a 24’ behind me and a 22’ to my left. This is the back of the Essex River in Massachusetts, so the fairway is active, not to mention the two pontoon charter cruise boats in the back right of the marina that seem to run 24×7 and a gas dock immediately behind me.
To make matters worse, my wife wasn’t comfortable at all with all the jumping off and pulling to tie the boat in. In fact last year we had decided to take a sunset cruise together and return after dark the marina had largely shut down. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t get the boat close enough to the dock for her to jump off after at least a dozen attempts resulting in tremendous frustration after a beautiful evening out together…I ended up powering in, turning off the engine, jumping off and muscling the boat to the dock, pulling a shoulder muscle along the way.
Needless to say we were both traumatized by the experience.
Found Doug’s Docking Lessons
Well, I found your courses and ordered beginners and advanced, and boy did I learn a lot! You explained everything so well. I went out and did the exercises and realized that I actually could control the boat. I finally understood what inputs to the boat did and how to interpret the effects of current and wind and momentum on how I was going to dock. What a relief!
My experience of my boat went from dread and fear to a whole new confidence that I had the understanding to get myself out of trouble and maneuver the boat in a controlled way.
I’m glad to report that my first docking attempt to my difficult slip resulted in a standing ovation from several people on their boats and on the dock. Granted, it was a calm day, but with your instruction I brought that boat in like a champ. That was earlier this year and my confidence has grown and I no longer get the willies thinking about taking the boat out, even if it’s a bit windy.
In practice I come in slow from the bottom right of the photo, then, I stop about 3 boat widths away from the gas dock right behind my spot. You can see a boat on the backside of the gas dock. I come to a full stop, then, I execute the key in the fairway to reposition the boat pointing nose in to the front right corner of my slip. Then I slowly power straight into that corner. After my engine clears the rear boat, I can go full starboard and give a little bump of reverse to draw the rear of the boat to the dock for my wife to get the FLIPP in place. Then I just leave everything as is and if the bow starts to drift into the boat on my port, I can just give a little bump of forward gear to draw my bow back to the dock. The tide current can be pretty strong, so my boat is always being pushed port on incoming tide and being pushed starboard on outgoing tide, so that makes things more exciting!
Thank you Doug. My family is enjoying our time on the boat this summer and I’m enjoying taking the boat out finally. You’ve given us a terrific gift, thank you!”
John Lara, MA
With the correct instruction, everything changes. Then, practicing the correct instruction you just get better and better at docking.
We are happy to report that we are turning bad docking experiences into happy endings around the world with our Docking e-lessons
As another boater, Dan, told us after our docking lessons turned his boating life around, “Nowadays, my favorite part of boating is docking… Specially when we are being watched!!!”