Learn how to dock a boat like a pro when landing soft and easy with the current. Follow these quick and easy sailing tips and in no time you’ll be “wowing” the people at your marina with your docking skills.
Enter any marina and you will deal with wind or current. Face the current with the bow or stern for maximum control. You will start to lose control when the current hits the boat on the side of the hull, closer to the beam. This vital factor will help you understand how to dock a boat in any current or wind. In this article, you will learn how to dock a ship in an open space next to a pier or boardwalk.
Look for clues
Prepare your boat with mooring lines and fenders on both sides before entering your marina or any other marina. Why both sides? What if your engine suddenly dies and you need to slide onto a port or starboard dock? Or does the dock manager change his berth assignment at the last minute? Prepare your boat for the unexpected and enjoy peace of mind and worry-free docking.
Watch how the current sets when you first enter a canal or canal leading to a marina. Look for “stream tails,” or small streams of water that flow past pilings, daytime beacons, finger docks, boat hulls, or dock bases. Use that current direction to line up your boat and gain maximum control to get closer to the dock.
Stop the current
The current is fixed (or flows) in one of four directions relative to the spring: parallel to the spring from the front, parallel to the spring from behind; off the dock (perpendicular); on the pier (perpendicular). On either approach, turn to face the current with your bow if possible. If not possible, turn toward the stream with the stern.
Use forward drive to maintain control against an arc current. Use reverse drive to maintain control against a stern current. In both cases, use enough acceleration speed to maintain control.
Perpendicular current can be more difficult to handle. Face the current with your bow if the current leaves the dock. Face the current with the stern if the current is at the dock. Use your engine to regulate the speed of your approach. Use forward drive to maintain control against an arc current. Use reverse drive to maintain control against a stern current. In both cases, use enough acceleration speed to maintain control.
Parallel approach with the stream ahead
Keep the current as close to the bow as possible as it approaches. Use forward drive to control approach speed. Keep your speed on all fours. Let the current help keep your speed to a minimum. As soon as you are alongside, first lay a forward bow line to hold the boat in position on the dock. Then lay the rest of your mating lines.
Parallel approach with current aft
Approach the pier from the downdraft at a narrow angle. Use reverse drive to control approach speed. Reverse the engine to slow or stop the boat. As soon as you are alongside, immediately place a stern line to hold the boat in position on the dock. Then lay the rest of your mating lines.
Perpendicular approach technique
Approach the dock at a perpendicular angle for maximum control. This keeps your bow or stern facing the current.
Before approaching, align the boat so that its bow faces a pier pile or pier cleat. Your crew will place a spring rope around the pier pile or pier clamp as soon as your bow reaches the pier. Make a spring line near the bow. Remove one end of the spring line. Wind up the rest of the spring line and assign a team to work the line.
Use the absolute minimum speed to approach the dock. If your bow faces the current, use forward thrust to regulate your approach speed. If your stern faces the current, use reverse drive to regulate your approach speed. Protect the bow in both cases with fenders (or have a team hold a large fender in a line to cushion the contact points.
Stop the boat when you are within a foot or two of the dock. Use your engine to maintain this position. Wrap the spring line around the dock pile or dock clamp and bring it back on board to a boat clamp. Turn the wheel away from the dock (or hold a tiller toward the dock). Use minimum forward propulsion to bring the boat flush with the dock. Remember to use fenders during this maneuver to protect the helmet. Once to the side, lay the rest of your mooring lines.
Learn how to dock a boat like a pro today with these simple boating tips. Get the confidence you need to master the art of docking, anywhere in the world you choose to sail!