One of the biggest challenges faced by both experienced boaters and those new to the industry is docking a boat. Many challenges can be encountered but are easily overcome if you’re adequately prepared. Marinas can be busy places adding even greater stress to the situation but follow these tips, and you’ll look like a pro when docking a boat. 

What do you need to properly secure a boat in a boat slip, marina gas station, or face dock?

  1. Fenders that protect the side of the boat from scraping or bumping into the dark too hard. These are also called bumpers to some. 
  2. Dock lines to secure the boat to the dock to include a stern line, bowline, and forward and aft-facing spring lines.

What factors play into maneuvering a boat for safe dockage?

  1. If you live in coastal areas, the tidal flow has a significant impact on docking the boat. Currents can swiftly move a vessel out of position and into the danger of hitting the dock or other crafts. 
  2. Winds can be similarly as treacherous as currents; strong winds can also impact a boat’s maneuverability.
  3. Marina’s can be tight on space, making them difficult to align and dock without ping-ponging. Combining wind and current only adds to the chaos.

How to prepare for docking a boat?

  1. Always have the lines secured to the boat’s cleats on the end that has a loop ahead of time, so you’re not fumbling around dockside.
  2. Deploy the fenders on the side of the boat that it will rest against the dock.
  3. Take note of both the wind and direction of the current.

Best ways to approach a face dock:

  1. If the space is available, operate the boat against the current when approaching the dock.
  2. This isn’t a race; move the boat slowly through the water while maintaining control.
  3. Move the throttle in and out of drive as you pull alongside.
  4. Have someone exit the boat and enter the dock for tying lines. 
  5. Secure the bow line, stern line, and spring line that will prevent you from sliding backward in the current by using a cleat hitch.
  6. Be sure the boat is stable before offloading passengers.
  7. Note that if you’re at a marina gas station, leave ample room for other boats to tie off; you don’t want to make it inaccessible to others. 

At the boat dock, you may also need to tie up in a slip. Here is how to accomplish this:

  1. Often a boat will be off to the port or starboard side in the slip.
  2. Take note of the current and wind direction before backing or pulling straight in.
  3. Have the fenders and lines ready.
  4. Move slowly but steadily for good steerage ability.
  5. If the current is strong and sets you down on the dock, be ready to apply power in the opposite direction of your intended resting place. 
  6. Secure the boat to the boat dock.
  7. Offshore bowlines to a center piling may be in place to connect a bow line to the opposite side of the dock bow line. 

Docking and securing your boat will be much more comfortable by following these simple steps. The main key component is being prepared ahead of time. Gather dock lines at the last minute can spell disaster. Some become fearful of wind and current, but they can be used to your advantage if you drive into them. For the most part, the boat will gently move towards the dock’s direction. Take it slow to start out, but you will be confident to approach at greater speeds in the end.