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You’ve been out enjoying your boat all day and now it’s time to go back to the dock. For many, this could be the most stressful part of the day. We’d like to believe there will be a dockhand ready to help us dock the boat. More likely, there will be a group of spectators watching, and in our view ready to give a score on your docking performance.
Sure, a dockhand can be very helpful. All we need to do is get close enough to toss a line and he or she will help us secure the boat. In reality, dockhands seem to be as rare as hen’s teeth. So, we really need to know how to handle things ourselves. Knowledge is power, so let’s consider a few things.
In reality, boats can do things that cars cannot. It is much easier to parallel park a boat than a car, but you need to know how. The first rule of docking is to get a line on the dock from the boat, but which line and where is important. To do that, you need to get the boat to the dock – close enough to secure a line. If the wind is blowing, you have an added challenge, so your opportunity at the dock may be brief, so it pays to be ready.
As you approach the dock, do so at an angle. That gives you momentum to carry you up to the dock even when you’re in neutral. As you get close, don’t go any faster than you would like to strike the dock. Aim for a spot on the dock and go directly toward it. About a boat’s length away begin a sharp turn using intermittent power. The boat will pivot and slide right up to the dock. Now let’s get that line on. A line from your bow or mid-ship cleat to a cleat behind the boat on the dock will let you hold the boat against the dock by steering away from the dock at idle speed in forward gear.
How’d that line get on the dock if there’s no dockhand? Well, you need to have your mate ready with the line in hand, probably near the stern or swim platform ready to step onto the dock when you make contact. Once that line is in place, you can secure the rest of the docklines and shut down the power.
Well, suppose you’re all by yourself. Stepping off is out of the question if the engine is running, so you’ll need to use a breast line. Prepare by securing a line to your mid-ship cleat. When you make contact with the dock, place the boat in neutral and go over to wrap that line to an adjacent cleat or piling immediately opposite. Then bring the line back into the boat and secure it. Now you can secure the dock lines and remove the breast line.