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What Is Recommended When Docking Your Boat? – Safety Guide

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

what is recommended when docking your boat

Similar to driving a car, one of the skills that boat operators need to be skillful at is the docking maneuver. Docking a vessel may seem complicated at first, but if you follow strictly certain rules and legislations, things will be easy.

In fact, these regulations are legislated to ensure the safety of the boat docking process and prevent threats or accidents that may occur. Hence, understanding the following tips will help boaters practice safe and proper watercraft docking.

This leads us to answers of the question “what is recommended when docking your boat?”. In this post, we will provide important rules in vessel docking, and share tips about avoiding accidents.

  • Recommendations and rules for boaters while docking their boat
  • Tips to prevent injuries and accidents during the docking maneuver
  • Elements that need to be paid attention to before docking.

Other suggestions for boaters in preparing and docking a craft will also be highlighted to reduce the risks you may encounter. Continue reading to learn more!

Recommendations and Rules for Boaters While Docking Their Boat


One of the most nerve-wracking tasks on the water is entering the dock, especially in a packed marina. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. We’ve come up with some basic suggestions that, if followed strictly, will improve your maneuvering & docking skills.

Rule 1: Entering the dock at a specific angle and shifting between gears

When approaching the dock, maintain a 45-degree angle for your boat. This makes aiming for a certain place and bringing the vessel close to the pier much easier. Rotate the control handle away from the pier after you’re approximately 100 feet. This permits the back side of your watercraft to roll in toward the pier. Now, shift into neutral to let the vessel’s momentum propel it towards the dock.

After that, spin the wheel in the direction of the pier. Set the gear in backward and lightly stroke the motor. The rear end of the ship will be pushed to the pier. Return the gear into neutral, enabling momentum to bring the back side along the pier once more.

Rule 2: There should be only one boat operator to control the boat

Although it may be helpful to have many people support you while docking, there should only be one person who controls the vessel during the process of docking maneuver. This is because those who are in charge of the watercraft mustn’t be distracted.

On many occasions, you may notice others on the dock attempting to give you advice and instructing you on how to handle the boat. It’s possible that this will distract you instead of assist you. As a result, don’t allow other people to get you into trouble.

You need to be alert and aware of what has to be done when managing the boat. If you’re new to the task, take your time and figure it out on your own.

Rule 3: Approach in a low speed

Slower speeds imply less feasible harms. It allows you to adjust your movements to avoid wrecks and other mishaps.

Slow throttle changes apply to all boats, whether they have a single or several engines. You may gently maneuver your vessel in and out the gear to make alterations.

Pulling or pushing the opposing thrust is definitely powerful when done with the helm amidships. It’s a method of directing the ship throughout its whole length instead of using your steering wheel.

Remember that brakes are not available on boats. As a result, brief outbursts of high power should be avoided.

Rule 4: Carefully calculating before docking your craft

Don’t be scared by challenging docking scenarios; with a controlled, logical strategy, you can conquer them. Even if you’re new to sailing, you’ll be astonished by how well you can do it.

It’s a good idea to establish a plan before implementing your strategy. Just experience boating to increase your time spent at the helm. Not only will you feel more confident in carrying on the captain’s duties, but you’ll also understand how to discover problems before they become more serious.

Rule 5: Use spring lines for assistance

You’ll be in a scenario where the opposing ship is ahead of you or behind you. Because your boat’s agility is restricted in this situation, you won’t be able to move very far. Don’t worry; with the help of spring lines, you won’t become trapped.

Tie up a spring line on a port’s cleat then attach it to the cleat of the fuel dock. The stern and bowlines can be removed. Then, to back the craft down, set the motor in reverse.

For more details, please check out this video:

Tips to Prevent Injuries and Accidents During the Docking Maneuver


You will always have to be cautious since accidents can happen while docking. Remember to follow these rules and stay safe!

  • Before a docking maneuver, ensure that everyone knows what they’re doing. Passengers who have no expertise should just stay on board, while other crew members need to stay in position for emergency situations.
  • Encourage your team to avoid making Olympic-style jumps on the pier. This is considered one of the most popular marine accidents.
  • Fingers and limbs must be kept inboard! Passengers on a boat approaching a dock tend to draw toward the rail and dangle their fingers, legs, or arms over the boat’s sides. The results of a boat swinging into a pier or piling can be unpleasant.
  • Ensure everyone is positioned or has something to grab onto. Everyone should also know that they should not try to stop the vessel with their body.

Elements That Need to Be Paid Attention to Before Docking

1. Weather and current condition

The wind speed and the flow of the water have a big impact on docking. When the wind is blowing in your face, you must approach the dock with a sharp angle of 30 to 45 degrees. Before retracting to enable the stern to come in, you must first tighten the bow.

Get near to the dock at a small inclination of 20 degrees while the wind is on your back. After that, bring the boat to a complete stop to allow the wind to propel it to the pier. Approaching the pier when it’s upwind, on the other hand, is more advantageous since you have greater control.

2. Traffic at the port

When you’re in a marina with a limited number of docking stations, you’ll have to wait in the queue at times. As you converse and collaborate with the boaters who depart, remember to be patient and kind.


Docking maneuver may be complicated with new boaters but if you follow all the rules and suggestions that we have mentioned above, things will be simple. Moreover, these tips are recommended to ensure your safety while docking a boat, so keep them in mind and practice them frequently.

We hope you find our recommendations helpful and easy to understand. Did you enjoy the article on what is recommended when docking your boat? Do you want to add anything else? Please let us know and leave a comment below.

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