When you own a boat, you also need a place to keep it safe in and out of season – a boat dock. A dock is similar in purpose to a boat owner what a parking space is to a car owner. It’s a man-made structure, near the shoreline where you can load, unload, raise, and lower your boat into the water. Unlike a vehicle owner, simply pulling your boat into the dock might not be simple. Speed, wind conditions, weather, and boat type all play a role in how your boat is docked. Keep reading for helpful tips on the right way to dock your boat.
General Boat Docking Tips & Guidelines
How you dock your boat varies depending on the type of boat you have and whether or not it has an inboard or outboard engine, or even no engine at all. The following are general tips for docking a boat with an outboard engine:
- Prepare your dock lines
- Prepare your boat’s fenders
- Visually align your boat and dock
- Secure your bow line
- Put your engine in reverse
Hang your boat’s fender, and, once in the dock, finish securing your lines. These tips will help get your outboard engine boat into position.
If your boat has an inboard engine, follow these guidelines and tips:
- Slow down on approach
- Prepare your boat’s fenders
- Visually align your boat
- Further decrease your speed
- Push your boat’s stern
- Attach your spring line
With your engine idling, maneuver away from the dock. If you adhere to these steps, you should be aligned with the dock and can tie your boat to the dock safely. Because your inboard engine boat will rely on its rudder to guide your stern toward the dock, the steps vary a little from an outboard engine. Similarly, docking a sailboat or pontoon also require different docking techniques.
How To Dock A Sailboat
Powered exclusively by wind and sails, a sailboat is a pleasure craft many people enjoy. Docking a sailboat – or any type of boat – can be daunting and intimidating for new and seasoned boaters, alike. Relax, though, because it can also be easier than you think if you keep these tips in mind:
- Prepare and position your spring line
- Carefully align your boat with your dock
- Maneuver into the dock at a slow, steady speed
- Drop your line over and onto a piling, cleat, line, or other safety structure
- Stay close to the dock until your boat and lines are all fully secure
Take a few minutes to inspect all ropes, ties, and lines for security. Once you know your sailboat is secure, you can start unloading gear and offloading passengers with increased peace of mind.
How To Dock A Pontoon
A relatively flat-bottomed boat, pontoons rely quite heavily on buoyancy for operation. Their docking process can vary greatly from that of other types of boats.
- Organize and arrange your lines and fenders well before you get to your dock
- Pay careful attention to the wind, its current, and any other nearby boats
- Remain on your deck to ensure you have a clear line of sight from your boat to your dock
- Slow down and approach your dock at a very moderate speed
- Carefully shift into and out of gear and you near the dock
Make sure you know how you will dock your pontoon boat and on which side well ahead of time. While you are still at least one boat length away from the dock, shift into reverse and carefully rock your pontoon into position.
How Speed Can Affect Boat Docking
No matter what type of boat you own, the speed at which you approach the dock matters more than you might think. If you approach the dock at a high rate of speed, you risk crashing into the dock; if you approach it too slowly, you risk losing control of your boat. In addition, the speed of your boat is not the only speed-related factor at play. You also need to carefully note the speed of the wind and other weather-related factors.
- Always approach your dock slowly with your stern in line with your ‘parking space’. Shift your boat’s engine into reverse to pull your stern right up to the dock. Then shift the engine into neutral to reach for the piling, line, or cleat.
- Always take the speed and velocity of the wind into account when docking your boat. The wind and weather can impact the momentum of your boat and either push it into the dock, push it back from the dock, or cause it to sway from side to side.
The slower your boat is moving when you approach your dock, the more mastery and control you have. That typically means you will not hit anything, crash into your dock, or damage your boat as you approach. It can also ensure you do not inadvertently bump or crash into any other docks, nearby boats, or other structures. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
With the speed of your boat under control and the velocity of the wind in mind, you still need to consider another important factor. As you approach your dock, you need to take time to ensure you line your boat up with your dock as much as possible. To make lining your boat and dock to each other easier, we highly recommend centering guides that help ensure accurate alignment. Do not forget to ensure your dock is the right size for your boat and that you have the right size, length, and type of ropes to secure your boat to the dock once it is in place.
How Our Centering Guides Make Docking Easier
We offer boat owners just like you beneficial centering guides that help make docking your boat easier, faster, and more secure. HydroHoist centering guides are available in sizes ranging from six to nine feet and are solidly constructed of hot-dipped galvanized steel. They also have a supple, PVC cover for added security and protection.
Along with centering guides, we offer a variety of accessories that make owning a boat easier, so you and your friends and family spend more time enjoying your time on the water. Available accessories include:
- Bow guide
- Corner bumper
- Plank kit
Make sure to browse our accessories selection when you’re ready to fully equip your boat or personal watercraft. You can trust the accessories you buy from us just like you can trust our boat lifts – because every product we offer is designed to give boat and marina owners low maintenance products with superior performance and worry-free security. Contact a member of our sales team when you’re ready to optimize your investment in your boat, maximize the boating season, and make docking as simple and safe as possible.
Watch this brief video on How to Use Guide Ropes after docking your boat.