Beginners Guide to Docking a Boat

Beginners Guide to Docking a Boat

If it is your first time docking a boat, your mind could tempt you to think it is like parking a car. But you know better, the ground and the water are two different surfaces that require different techniques. And if you ask your friends who already know how to dock, they could tell you how easy it is, and for the most part, you will discover that it is easy. So, how do you get to dock your boat with ease for the first time? This guide is going to give you all the info you need.

Approaching the dock

Line the approach

Once you identify a docking spot, begin slowly approaching the area at an angle of between 30 and 45 degrees. If it is windy and the current is strong, slowly approach the dock at a shallow angle. Once you try this method several times, you will discover the best way to approach the dock without compromising your boat's safety.

Monitor your boat speed

Most new boaters make a common mistake of approaching the dock too fast. If you want to control your speed, use the forward and reverse gears to get the right speed. When using a twin-engine boat, alternate between the two engines to reduce your speed.

Swing the boat to the dock

Things tend to get challenging at this stage. As you approach the dock half a boat away from the dock, spin your wheel to get the propeller(s) facing the dock. Then engage the accelerating gear for a second to boost your boat’s momentum. Timing is everything, so if your timing is off, your boat will bang on the dock, and if you time too early, your boat will not park parallel to the dock. Knowing your boat will help you with timing the swing of entry.

Finishing off

When your boat aligns parallel with the dock, steer the wheel in the opposite direction and engage the engine in reverse. For a twin-engine boat, only turn the engine that is not close to the dock. Once the boat comes to a halt, put it in neutral and then reach out to the dock to stabilize your boat even more. Always keep your arms above the dock; avoid placing them between the boat and the dock.

Harness the boat

Turn off the engine and start securing the boat to the dock. Afterwards, step off the boat.

Docking a single engine boat

Docking a single-engine boat is easy. The first step is ensuring that the dock lines are pre-rigged. The fenders should also be hanging over the side. It is essential to study the water current orientation if you want to get a grip on docking your boat. Proper handling of the boat's bow will aid in eliminating the force of the wind. Ideally, you should always ensure that you have control of the boat against the water and wind currents.

If you have a crew on board, they should be strategically positioned on the boat. Some crew members can be at the stern and bow, while others at the dock lines. And to avoid any injuries, no one should place their hands or feet between the boat and the dock. Everyone should be as sharp as a whip at this point to avoid any problems from springing up.

As you inch closer to docking, line up the boat for the approach. In addition, reduce your boat speed as well as the wind effect by lowering the canvas enclosure, bimini tops, or sports towers. These steps will help you gain control of your boat, which is something you need to target at all times.

In case the water or wind currents push you towards the dock, make a shallow (degrees) entry as discussed earlier. If there are no currents and the weather is great, increase the angle of entry. Also, do not be tempted to move with the wind when docking, you will lose control of the boat because the added push caused by the wind is hard to measure or predict. The bottom line is that approaching slowly is key as you make minor adjustments while getting closer to the dock. Once docking is complete, secure the lines by keeping the ropes tight. Single-engine boats don’t require many ropes, but you can always use more ropes for safety purposes.

Docking a twin-engine boat

It is easier to dock a boat with two engines because you have more control of the boat. The simplest way to do it is to put one engine in reverse mode and the other one in accelerating mode. When the port engine is in reverse, it will pull the bow of the boat towards the port. And when the starboard engine is accelerating forward, it will push the stern to the starboard. This way, it is easy to pivot the twin-engine boat compared to a boat with a single-engine.

A two-engine boat has twin inboards with rudders, or outboard and outdrives. The recommended approach is to center the steering because the engines will handle the load. If you choose to go for the inboards, they will pivot the boat faster than using outboards. Alternatively, outboards will require more power to achieve the same results. That is the reason why inboards work better. But you can try both methods to see what works for you.

Docking in a tight spot

It is tricky to dock in a tight spot because of limited space. A normal dock is open on three sides, but a tight slip only has the pier, increasing the difficulty of docking. To dock successfully, you want to begin by reducing the speed until you have a bare steerageway. Then approach the pier at a 45-degree angle. Once you are close enough, engage the neutral gear. Shift the boat away from the pier, drop the eyes off the line, and then move the boat three feet from the pier while slightly shifting the motor ahead. Lastly, tie the cleat to the boat's bow and you will be safely docked.

Wrap up

There is a lot that involves docking your boat or even building the right dock for your residential or commercial property. If you feel overwhelmed, and wondering how to begin, reach out to our professionals. Contact VW Docks today for any inquiries and let us solve all your docking needs.

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