Docking Chaos #1 & #2 – Not Unusual

I know what I’m talking about!” said Colonel Sherman T. Potter from the popular MASH TV series from 1972 until 1983 when he was debating with the other doctors.

I’ve been docking boats and debating with others about which methods work best for decades.

I have to admit that I’ve wanted to echo those same words as Colonel Potter when I see the docking chaos.

I’ve been in the boat business for five generations and watched 1000’s of boaters mess up their dockings. The chaos is so predictable.

Here are a few common mistakes to avoid for less stressful dockings for you and your family:

Distractions = Chaos

Distractions don’t help you to dock your boat when you come back to your slip after a day on the water. You really need to concentrate when docking especially during bad weather or at night.

Captains and crew need to shut down all the distractions, so the Captain can concentrate on the immediate task at hand—docking. Many Captains feel they need to leave all the electronics on until after they’re tied up.
I’ve seen helms and cockpits with:

• Stereo blasting
• VHF radio squawking
• Radar flashing
• GPS beeping
• Cell phone ringing
• Baby crying
• Dog barking
• Teenager texting
• Canvas obstructing visibility
• Guests partying
• Wife crying or shouting orders

- Eliminate the distractions and chaos.
- Concentrate on docking.

Bow Thruster Killer

Killed Thruster

Bow thrusters are aids to docking—not a total means to dock. They are intended to nudge the boat the last couple of feet sideways to the dock, not to push it 20’ or 30’. It certainly isn’t meant to steer the boat in the fairway.

No twin engine boat requires a bow thruster in my opinion. Whereas, big single engine boats like trawlers, sailboats or houseboats with a lot of windage, can be docked easier with the aid of a bow thruster.

Boaters should be able to dock any boat under 40’ no matter what the drive system, without the assistance of a bow thruster.

The thruster is one more lever to add to the already stressed brain, as you approach the dock. You don’t really need it, so why complicate the docking process?

In many cases, boaters have become dependent upon their bow thrusters and use them as a third gear shift to power the boat around 90 degrees, instead of using the shifts. Then, they can’t figure out why the poor little thing burned out. They killed it!

If you are challenged and think you need to waste $20,000 to $30,000 on a bow thruster, I highly recommend our Docking Lessons.

Download the Introductory docking lesson (only $39) and the Advanced docking lesson (only $69) for your drive system. You’ll find that you likely won’t need a bow thruster.

Our lessons really work as evidenced by the hundreds of testimonials on our site. Think of all the money you will save. Think of all the repairs and insurance claims you will avoid.

- Don’t Kill your bow thruster.

A Tip for Captains to eliminate chaos

Captains, does this sound familiar? Have you experienced or witnessed either of the above scenarios? Docking should be easy and it is when you know how. If there is any of the following involved in your dockings, it is probably time to improve your docking skills.

  • yelling,
  • swearing,
  • jumping,
  • boat hooks,
  • bionics,
  • dock helpers,
  • guesswork, or
  • embarrassment

If you are an expert at docking, please forward to your marina buddies who need to cut the distractions on their boats. They too can learn to dock with no chaos, no thruster and no stress in the last 100 feet to the dock.

3 thoughts on “Docking Chaos #1 & #2 – Not Unusual”

  1. Amen to your comments on needless bow thruster use – I’m all for technology, but not at the expense of BASIC boat handling skills – like docking. If you haven’t a clue how to maneuver the boat without the thruster(s), what are you going to do when they fail (and they will, at the worst possible time – See Murphy). I’m afraid the manufacturers are moving to the “Geico” marketing model when it comes to joystick control – “So easy, a caveman can do it”. Right…..

  2. For most, learning to dock using two motors independently is not difficult — practice is essential. However, that holds only for calm, currentless conditions — which rarely occur. Problems arise when erratic wind gusts move the front half or the back half of the boat in unexpected directions when on final approach to the dock. Water movement due to current doesn’t help either, but usually that is not as erratic as wind and can be anticipated. A bow thruster would be especially helpful in these conditions and should not be disparaged. Your comment about a bow thruster’s function is to move the last 2-3 feet toward the dock is ludicrous as I consider the boat docked (within reach by hand or short rope) if I get within 2-3 feet of the dock!

    1. When you are 2-3 feet out from the dock, you are not docked. You are still in the process of docking. From this location, you and your First Mate can finish the job with our docking lessons or you can be aided with a bow thruster or dock helpers.
      Our docking lessons teach boating families (Captain, First Mate and kids) how to dock (all drive systems-twin and single) with ease without the use of a bow thruster. They also teach how to counter act the wind and current so that you have control at all times—as you should especially with twins.
      Docking and Docked are two different things.
      Our definition of docking is: “Confidently and safely bringing your boat into your slip or alongside your dock AND securing it to the dock in any conditions without yelling, swearing, jumping, boat hooks, bionics, dock helpers, guesswork, embarrassment, bow thruster or stern thruster.”
      “Docked” is when you are secured with all the appropriate lines for your particular situation.
      For boaters who already have a bow thruster, just use it for the last 2-3 feet so you don’t “kill it” from overuse. For those boaters who don’t have a thruster, don’t blow $20,000 to $30,000 on one, buy a docking lesson for $39 instead and save the money.
      A thruster isn’t necessary when you have learned our docking process.

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