Going Deep on Docking

Posted: October 1, 2012  |  Tag: Lines/Cleats/Docking

By: John Temple

John Temple wrote an answer to a question about docking — it was about the setup — and it generated two letters to the editor. Assuming you have set up to enter your slip, what’s next? I have a twin-screw 40-foot boat.
Since this is a follow-up question, we’ll call the answer Docking 102. The scenario is that you are coming down the fairway to pull into your slip. I will assume you are docking bow-in, port side of your boat to the dock. It is a tight slip with a boat docked to your starboard.

As you come down the fairway, you are of course checking for current and wind. Your slip is to your right as you are proceeding to your port-tie slip. If the wind is on your bow, it will tend to blow you off the dock as you turn. A small amount of momentum can help. I like to compare the movement of the boat to a person on skis coming to a skidding stop, kind of like how you slide sideways a bit as you stop. As you are going into your slip, the wind and/or current will be slowing down your slide. You want to turn into the slip using your gear shifts, not the wheel, the rudders not turned. You want to go as slow as possible, moving the bow to the right by putting the port gear forward and the starboard gear in reverse. A good technique is to just tap one gear at a time, unless you need straight thrust or more turning. Perhaps it’s obvious, but using the forward gear to turn your boat clockwise will give you forward motion, and tapping reverse will slow you. I think of the gears like a steering wheel: Pushing on the left and pulling back on the right is like turning a steering wheel clockwise. No wind or current, just get turned, bow pointing straight in, and tap both throttles as needed.

If you are going into your slip with the wind or tide in your direction, I suggest slightly passing your slip and then use the same thought of momentum. If the wind or tide is parallel to the slip, adjust your thrust from pushing more in or slowing you down.

Docking stern-in is essentially the same method as I’ve described. A trick a lot of boaters use is to turn around and face the stern. Hold the gear shifters behind your back. If you need to, practice on a long dock.

Until you are more skilled — ready for Docking 201 or 301 — I suggest not using throttles or the steering wheel, because that can be when damage or confusion happens. However, single-prop boaters often have to use both the wheel and the throttle.

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