Here are 12 tips that will not only make you better at close-quarters maneuvering and docking, but will also make you a better all-around boater. Remember, the cardinal rule of docking is never approach the dock faster than you are willing to hit it.
1. Come Up With a Plan
First and foremost, you must be aware of how your boat handles, particularly at bare steerageway. The more comfortable you become, the more confident you’ll be when trying to slip it into a tight space in a jammed marina.
2. Learn How to Use Wind and Current to Your Advantage
When docking in a tough spot, wind and current — coupled with knowledge of how they affect your boat — plus situational awareness can serve you better than an army of deck hands.
3. Dockmaster Docking Tip
The first line to toss is your spring line, with loop fed through your boat’s cleat.
4. Warped Thinking
Perfect the technique of "warping" to help you get out of tight docking situations.
5. Leeward Lines First
Remove the lines on the downward side first, since only the lines to weather are holding your boat in position.
6. Using Reverse
Learn how to make a reversing propeller your best friend and minimize stress and aggravation when docking.
7. Watch Your Speed
Minimal throttle, simply idling in gear, is the best speed for virtually every docking situation.
8. Stepping Up
A dock hand will often step up onto a tied line, holding onto the boat for balance, and use the weight of her body to bring the boat in closer.
9. Controlled Docking
The secret to "parallel parking" in a tight space is in knowing how to use the spring cleat properly.
10. Toss a Line
With a coil in each hand, step into a sidearm throwing motion, releasing when the coils are about shoulder high.
11. Hung Up
Your boat can’t just be tied tight. You have to allow for the rise and fall of the water lest the boat be left hanging by its lines at low tide or pulled under by its lines at high tide.
12. Make Small Steering and Throttle Corrections
Use just enough throttle to move forward slowly, and if you need to shift to one side or the other, use small steering adjustments and wait for them to take effect before feeding in more.