Sometimes, you can learn to dock and handle your boat by watching, or asking another boater; BUT, only if they have a boat the same as yours, with the same drive system as yours, AND they know what they are doing. Too often, this isn’t the case.
One day, I watched Sue (not her real name) cast off the dock lines of their 25’ mid-cabin cruiser, as Max (not his real name either) warmed up their single sterndrive. I watched with fear of anticipated upcoming problems, as she climbed through the windshield opening with her extendable boat hook (their mid-cabin cruiser has no side decks). This is usually a recipe for potential disaster……
She gently “butt –walked” her way down the steep forward deck to the low bow rail. Max pulled the shift into reverse to back out of their slip. To avoid backing into the boats on the other side of the narrow fairway, he stopped backing up as soon as his bow cleared their dock. (Another red flag).
Max immediately shifted into forward, then started turning the wheel (another red flag). What happened next was as anticipated.
Max panicked. Too much throttle in forward, then too much throttle in reverse. Their performance would have been a hit on youtube.
If Sue and Max had known these few simple techniques,
they would have avoided all this drama.
- If Max had reversed all the way across the fairway to within half a boat length of the boats on the other side of the fairway, it would have given him lots of space to turn in forward.
- Then, if he had turned his wheel hard over to the direction he wanted to turn, he would have reduced his turning radius.
- Then and only then, he would shift into forward. (Aways wheel first, then shift – just like parking a car in a tight underground parking garage.)
- Then, he would clear the transoms of his neighbor’s boats and there would be no reason to panic.
- If Sue had stayed in the cockpit, she would have been safe and relaxed, without endangering her life with a collapsing boat hook. (Just use a boat hook to pick up dock lines that are out of reach).
Using Dawson’s Docking Lessons:
- Max would confidently back out of the slip the maximum distance (i.e. within a half a boat length of the other side of the fairway), turn the wheel, then shift into forward and exit the fairway confidently without panicking or providing entertainment.
- Sue would be positioned safely in the cockpit, not on the bow, nor would she use a boat hook to fend off other boats.
- As a team, Sue and Max would depart the slip smoothly, calmly and confidently.—No disaster!
The diagrams show only one row of docks. In a fairway, there would be another row on the opposite side; so, you would back up to within a half a boat length of the boats on that side before turning the wheel the way you want to go, then shifting into forward.
All Dawson’s Docking Lessons cover boat handling, docking and undocking with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions with lots of pictures and diagrams.