Docking a boat
Prior to getting underway, you should implement an undocking plan with the help of your passengers. You should consider the traffic in the area, the direction of wind and current and the depth of the water.
Do not assume that everyone onboard has the same boating experience that you have or that they can read your mind. Be specific and give direction if you ask for their help. Telling a passenger to attach a spring line means nothing if that person doesn’t know the meaning of the term, which line to use and where (and how) to tie it.
Make sure that your engines have run for a few minutes and that they are warmed up before casting off lines. (Long idle periods are not recommended.) Also, check the oil pressure and other items on your pre-departure check list prior to leaving the dock.
When the wind or current is pushing your boat away from the dock the procedure is simple.
Cast off lines and pull in fenders as the wind blows you away.
When clear and safely away from the dock and other boats, shift to forward and depart at idle speed.
Be careful to make sure you have been pushed safely away and that the stern will not hit the dock as you motor forward and turn.
Remember: A boat does not steer like a car, it pivots on its axis at a point approximately one-third to one-fourth back from the bow when moving forward.
If the wind or current is pushing your boat toward the dock you will have to do some extra planning.
- Cast off all lines except an after bow spring line. This line will keep you from moving forward and allow the stern to pivot away from the dock. (see illustration)
- You may want to use a fender forward to cushion the bow of the boat against the dock.
- Turn the motor or rudder to the direction necessary to push the stern away from the dock.
- Shift into forward at idle speed. Slowly, very slowly.
- The stern will swing away from the dock. When it is clear of all obstacles and traffic, cast off the spring line and back away from the dock.
- When you are safely away, shift to forward and idle away from the dock.
Once you are clear of the dock, stow lines and fenders so they will not be in the way or pose a tripping hazard. Be sure to control speed when leaving the dock and check for other boats, swimmers or other obstacles.
Before approaching the dock, one end of the docking lines should be secured onboard; fenders readied and speed reduced.
If the wind is onshore (blowing toward the dock), the boat is brought to a position parallel to the dock and about two feet off. The wind will blow the boat in. It can then be secured by bow, stern and spring lines.
If the wind is offshore (blowing away from the dock), you should approach the dock at a 20 to 30 degree angle. A bow line is passed ashore and secured. In boats with an outboard, or inboard/outboard engine, the engine is turned towards the dock and put in reverse. This will bring the stern into the dock. The boat can then be secured with the stern line.
The procedure is different for boats with inboard engines. The rudder will be used to bring the stern in. To push the stern in using the rudder, attach an after bow spring to keep the boat from moving forward. With the engine idling forward, turn the wheel away from the dock as illustrated below. Since the boat cannot move forward and the rudder is pushing the stern in, the boat will pin itself against the dock while you secure the other lines. All maneuvers are more easily accomplished if the boat has twin engines, rather than a single engine. (This will also work for outboards and I/Os.)