Keep Her Moving

boat hit dockDon’t approach your dock any faster than you are prepared to hit it.”

I read this advice several times the other day, when checking some internet boating forums. This really isn’t good docking advice at all for sail or power boats. In fact it is very bad advice because you should never hit the dock at any speed.

Those writers who give this advice clearly don’t know how to dock a boat. When you reduce speed, while approaching your dock against the wind, who do you think is going to win?—You? Or the Wind?

I often observe boaters timidly approaching their docks in the wind, following the “Don’t approach your dock any faster than you are prepared to hit it” advice. Every time, the wind wins, leaving the boat at the mercy of the wind.wind

All power boats slide sideways like a toboggan; so maneuvering in close quarters can sometimes be challenging, especially if there is a breeze or wind which there usually is. Because boats float, they are greatly affected by the wind even more so, if you have canvas or high superstructure or a pontoon or a houseboat.

When your boat is approaching too cautiously against the wind (so you won’t hit the dock), at a pace slower than the wind, you have relinquished control and Mother Nature will win every time.

The wind will redirect your boat hard against your downwind slip neighbor or downwind dock. So, in an attempt to not hit the dock that you are approaching, you end up T-boning the end of your downwind dock or tobogganing sideways into your downwind slip neighbor.

There is one simple trick to keep in mind to maintain control of your boat in a  wind.

Take Control Against the Wind

speed attitudeto bring your boat alongside your dock. Keep her moving against the wind. Step up your throttle (s) to approach your dock with attitude and determination with a little more speed, than you would do on a calm day.

You need to rehearse this procedure on a calm day, so you and your crew know how your boat responds to higher throttle settings before doing the following:


As you approach your dock with more speed,
you need to:

  • Have a plan and share it with your crew
  • Have your crew ready to act faster
  • Have thought through exactly what you are going to do and when
  • Know when to turn the wheel.
  • Know when to pull the shift out of forward
  • Know when to shift into reverse.

Also plan the “what if’s” like:

  • What if your First Mate misses hooking the dock cleat on the first toss?
  • What if you turn too late?
  • What if you need to abort and try again?

Think it all through. Talk it all through. Work your docking plan with attitude—more in gear, more throttle, less neutral. In other words, more attitue to maintain control (not relinquish control to the wind).

Win against the wind.

Because each drive system requires different instructions for docking, there isn’t room in this article to cover all of them. However, all our Docking e-Lessons include instructions for docking when it is calm; as well as in north, south, east and west winds. Approximately 130 pages of easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions with diagrams and pictures. The Docking video shows you what to expect to be able to do, once you have mastered the techniques in the docking lesson.

Reduce your stress and invest in a lesson today.

Doug Dawson

Just one new tip learned, will make docking more pleasant and totally undreaded.

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