Chapter 6: Navigation Aids

Docking Your Vessel

Docking and mooring a vessel is perhaps one of the most difficult processes associated with safely operating a boat. This process can be made even more difficult on choppy water and with high winds complicating matters. To become proficient at docking and mooring a boat, practice is necessary.

While on the docks one should follow these steps and remember these tips.

Docking Your Vessel

Before approaching the dock, one needs to reduce speed and use the reverse gear to smoothly stop. Then prepare for docking by securing fenders on the docking side of the vessel and preparing the stern and bow lines.

The next step is to take note of location and surroundings. Observe the wind intensity and direction and the water current direction. Observe how the boat drifts in the water, based on these factors, so one can maneuver accordingly. As a note, always approach the dock into the wind current, and not with it, if possible. This gives more control during the docking process.

Additionally, take the size of the vessel into account. How much room is needed to maneuver when approaching the docking or mooring area? Is one operating a powered vessel or a non-powered vessel? This will drastically affect one’s reliance on the wind and water currents for successful docking.

If there only a few remaining docking stations, one might have to wait to dock the boat. One needs to be patient and always communicate with others waiting or departing vessels before moving. Because so many vessels are in close proximity, a breakdown of communication could easily result in a collision.

If situations are ideal, and the wind and water current are minimal or insubstantial, then one should approach carefully and at a narrow-angle; about 20 degrees or so. When the boat is close enough to dock, have a passenger step onto shore and secure the stern and bow lines.

Accounting for Wind and Current:

If the wind is heavy and the current is shifting the boat, one must approach docking differently. To be successful and take these factors into consideration while maneuvering. Because docking is so precise, these factors heavily impact the process.

Wind at Your Back

With Wind at Your Back:

If the wind is pushing one toward the dock, one must approach at a shallow angle. Carefully approach the dock at about 10 to 20 degrees. Shift into neutral once close and use the wind to gently drift the boat into the dock. One can shift gear to alter position as necessary, but let the wind push the boat into place. Then secure the bow and stern lines.

Wind in Your Face

With Wind in Your Face:

If the wind is pushing one away from the dock, one must approach the dock at a steeper angle. Approach slowly at about 30 to 45 degrees. Once close, use the reverse gear to stop the boat and have a passenger secure the bowline. Next, shift into forward gear at idle speed and steer away from the dock just long enough for the stern to swing into place.