Pulling into a marina without knowing exactly how to maneuver your boat is one of life’s least pleasant experiences. Guests of Van Isle Marina are able to simply give a call to our Front Desk or Fuel Dock to request some assistance but not every marina functions this way! By using these tips, everyone from a rookie to an old salt, can learn to dock like a pro.
- Mind the wind: If it’s blowing from the pier, approach at a steep angle, using reverse gear and prop torque to swing the stern toward the dock. If it’s blowing toward the dock, plan to come “alongside” a boat width or more away, allowing the wind to push you all the way home.
- Go slowly: This one goes without saying. The so-called cardinal rule of docking a boat is “Never approach the pier any faster than you’re willing to hit it”. Just in case, always approach solid objects slowing enough that if your docking job turns into a ramming, the results won’t be tragic.
- Reduce the sail area: Particularly on a small boat, this can have a dramatic effect on how easy or how hard it is to dock. A Bimini top or an enclosure can act like a sail on a powerboat, and throw you off.
- Never kill the engines until all the lines are secure: Many people who don’t know how to dock a boat well make the mistake of shutting down as soon as the boat is in the slip, but you never know if a crew member is going to drop his or her line(s), or when a piling will slip out of reach.
- Always look before you leap: Even if you have backed into your slip 100 times before. The biggest issue here is mooring lines. If any lines of yours or a neighboring slip fell into the water, current could stretch it out across your path. Tangle a mooring line in your propeller, and that docking job will go south in a hurry.
- Learn the pivot point: An outboard or stern drive will steer from the stern, while many inboards will steer from a point forward of the transom. Learn your boat’s pivot point to determine your turning ability in tight quarters.
- Don’t be afraid to try again: This is especially important for sailboats, single-screw inboards, and other boats with a limited ability to maneuver. If the approach doesn’t seem to be going well don’t worry about having to circle back for another try.
- Always turn the wheel before applying power: Not during – or after- that way, you won’t get a blast of forward or reverse before the blast of the port or starboard kicks in.
- Short bursts instead of steady power: This allows you to maneuver the boat without building up a lot of momentum, which can quickly get out of control.
Practice makes perfect: Much like when you practiced driving a car in an empty parking lot, nothing makes you more confident than repetitive practice!