Docking With Toddlers


Boating with a young family can be an exhilarating experience, but it can also be more challenging for Mom; when managing toddlers AND managing dock lines while Dad is driving the boat.

As the First Mate, you may feel overwhelmed, when you are needed in two places at once. However, with some planning and preparation, you can be in one place and do both jobs simultaneously.


First and foremost, safety is crucial. Make sure the kids are safe and never leave toddlers unattended on a boat, as they do not understand the risks associated with boating—especially when docking. If you fall and injure yourself, or fall overboard while jumping to the dock, how can the Captain dock the boat, look after the kids, and rescue you all at the same time?

To manage the kids while the Captain is driving, consider bringing along some activities to keep them occupied, such as games, books, toys and/or snacks. You may also want to set up a designated play area on the boat, such as a small table or seating area where the kids can sit and play.

When Docking

When handling the dock lines, it is best to practice beforehand to ensure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. Assign specific tasks to each family member depending on age. If the kids are old enough, you can have them participate in the docking procedure.

But, if only Mom and Dad are aboard and Dad is driving, it can be difficult for Mom to look after the younger kids AND step/jump off the boat to tie the lines.

An Extra Hand

When I was a young parent with toddlers (and later grandchildren) aboard, I didn’t want them out of my sight and wanted to be sure they would be safe if I helped dock the boat by handling the lines. But, how could I do both? I needed an extra hand or two to ensure their safety.

So, we brainstormed and used methods others use in similar situations like sailors using a tether to go forward in rough seas, construction workers when working at heights on construction sites, or boaters wearing a kill switch in smaller boats. These methods all save lives.

We used a leather dog leash as a tether. They weren’t retractable in the ’70s and had a strong clip that was easy to snap securely to the life jacket/pfd. Then tied the other end to allow just enough distance for the kids to move around, but not long enough for them to climb out of the boat.

This way, they were never out of my sight and I knew they were safe while I assisted in a docking procedure where I didn’t have to leave the boat. I didn’t have to panic if they moved or got up. It took away the anxiety knowing the kids were safe and couldn’t fall overboard. They were never out of my sight, allowing me to do two things at once.

The good news is, that there is a simple way to handle the lines without the First Mate having to leap off the boat. Doug and Brenda have developed a method that relieves the stress and anxiety of docking, while keeping the First Mate and the toddlers safe. This procedure is detailed in every docking lesson at and, with step-by-step instructions, diagrams, and pictures. Doug is a 5th generation boating professional who has taught thousands of boaters to dock with confidence.

Proven Docking Method Keeps Toddlers Safe


Once mastered, you can repeat this team procedure for every docking, and it is proven to work every time in all conditions without the need for yelling, swearing, jumping, boathooks, bionics, dock helpers, guesswork, or embarrassment. It keeps everyone safe—not just toddlers but kids when they are grown up-everyone aboard.

Once you know how, it is easy.

If it isn’t easy, you are doing something wrong.

Now is the BEST time to upgrade your docking skills to better prepare for boating this summer.

Now is the BEST time to upgrade your docking skills to ensure everyone is safe during docking.

Docking Lessons

Tying and Using Knots

FirstMate 101

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