docking boats

10 Hacks to Make Docking Boats Easier

As the summer warms up, we know that you’re incredibly eager to take your boat out on the water again.

Not only is going boating an awesome way to relax and reconnect with nature, recent studies have also shown that boating provides numerous health benefits — even helping you to control the symptoms of epilepsy.

But no matter where you’re going, or why you’re heading out to sea, you’ll need to know how to park a boat.

That’s what this post is here to help you master.

In it, we’re sharing with you a few of our most effective tips on docking boats — so you’ll never have to worry about scratching up your hull again.

1. Practice Makes Perfect

If you really want to master docking boats?

Understand that you won’t get anywhere unless you really commit to practicing.

When you were first learning to drive, chances are that you took your first few trips around your block or in an abandoned parking lot.

The same goes for learning how to dock a boat.

Look for an empty pier, and bring along an experienced boater. You can learn from their expertise, ask for advice, and just feel more confident. Make sure that you practice docking in a variety of weather conditions so that you’ll be prepared for anything.

You may want to let any dock security guards know what you’re up to so that they don’t get suspicious.

2. Get the Right Propellor

Something that far too many people overlook when they’re learning how to park a boat?

Just how much of an impact getting the right propellors and boat props can have.

But are you certain that the propellors you’re working with are truly the best fit for your boat? And how can upgrading them give you more control and making docking a whole lot easier?

Whether you’re looking for a propellor made of plastic, aluminum, or even stainless steel?

SOLAS has the solution that you need.

Learn more about how to choose the right model for your boat by visiting their website.

3. Follow the Wind Patterns

When you’re in the process of docking a boat, the direction in which the wind is blowing will have a serious impact on your technique.

Have you noticed that the wind seems to be blowing out from the pier itself?

If so, when you’re ready to dock, use your reverse gear — and make sure that you head towards the dock at a fairly severe angle. Your goal should be to move the back of the boat (AKA the “stern”) to align with the dock itself.

But if the wind is blowing in the direction of the dock?

You can actually use this wind to guide your boat in the right direction. Turn your boat sideways towards the dock, and gently float into place.

4. When in Doubt, Throw It Out

No, we’re of course not talking about your precious boat itself.

Instead, we’re talking about tossing a line to a member of your party who has stepped on the dock, or a hired boatman whose job it is to help people to safely dock.

How can you make sure that you get the perfect toss?

Start with getting a rope that has a little weight to it — and buy a longer option than you think you might need.

Then, take a coil in each of your hands. Put one foot slightly in front of the other, with the front foot’s toe pointing where you need the rope to go.

Once the rope is at your shoulder (wind up by taking your hand behind you) let it fly.

5. Tie Your Boat Correctly

We see far too many people expertly docking boats, only to run into serious trouble when it’s time to tie the boat to the dock itself.

So, what are they doing wrong?

Believe it or not, many people end up making the mistake of tying their boats to the dock too tightly.

The issue is that this doesn’t leave the boat much room to account for the fluctuation in the tide. Plus, your boat will need to move a bit while it’s docked. Sometimes, if you don’t leave enough slack, your boat can end up being pulled in a way that makes it much more likely to have a harder collision with the dock than is normal.

This can lead to costly damage — and will certainly throw a real wrench in your vacation.

6. Slow it Down

Not every piece of advice about docking a boat has to be complicated.

We know that you’re in a hurry to get to your next destination — especially if it involves wine.

But as you approach the dock, make sure you seriously pull in the reigns when it comes to speed.

If you move too quickly, it’s easy to end up getting overwhelmed by the wind — meaning that you’ll likely have to pull out and start the docking process all over again.

Plus, if something goes wrong, speeding into the dock means that you might not have the time you need to properly react.

7. Stop, Steer, and Throttle

Think of this as the “stop, drop, and roll” of the boating lifestyle.

As you begin to approach the dock, use a tiny amount of engine throttle so that you’ll be able to inch forward ever so slightly. While you’re moving forward, gently but quickly jiggle your boat from one side to another.

This will essentially allow you to make micro adjustments, meaning that you’ll end up pulling perfectly into the spot. Once you’ve noticed your boat is going in the right direction, hit the throttle again.

8. Know Which Lines to Remove

When you’re docking boats, depending on your skill level, you might not realize that there’s a specific order to the lines you need to remove.

Always go with the downward side first whenever possible.

But why?

Because these are the lines that actually work to keep your boat in the proper position. So, you want to make sure that you have the time to place them exactly where you want them.

9. Find Your Boat’s Pivot Point

When you’re docking a boat in a slip, you need to make sure that you’re well aware of the boat’s pivot point ahead of time.

In simpler terms, the pivot point of a boat is where the boat actually rotates when you move the till or the rudder. Usually, it’s about 1/3 of the boat’s length from the very front of the boat.

However, depending on the specific size and type of the boat you’re out sailing with, the location may vary slightly.

Always make sure that you know where the pivot point is on your boat. Once you know that, then you can quickly turn it into the perfect position.

You’ll likely also feel a lot more confident when you’re in the position to need to make tighter turns.

10. Limit the Voices

You’ve likely heard the popular phrase, “Too many cooks spoil the kitchen.”

Well, the same is certainly true when you’re trying to master how to park a boat.

Before you set out on your voyage (however long or short it may be) assign everyone on your boat separate tasks. Choose only one or two people to assist you with parking your boat in the dock.

When lots of different people on your boat are telling you to go in all different directions, it’s easy to get into an accident.

So, make sure that everyone knows to stay quiet and calm when you’re pulling into the dock.

A final word of advice?

Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help when you need it. Your pride isn’t worth damaging your boat!

Use These Hacks When You’re Next Docking Boats

Whether you’re ready to sing boating songs on the high seas for days at a time, or if you just want to take a quick trip around the marina, eventually, you’re going to have to dock your boat.

We hope that the advice we’ve written here on docking boats safely and effectively has been helpful to you.

Remember to take your time, ensure that you have the right tools, and pay attention to the wind.

You’ll be safely docked in no time at all!

Looking for more boating advice? Want to plan your dream boating vacation?

We’ve got you covered.

Keep checking back with our website and blog for more ways to get the most out of your next boating trip.