Pulling a boat up to a dock is not the most exciting part of boating. Move too fast, and you might crash. Move too slow, and you lose control.
With all eyes on you, docking can get very intimidating, especially for starters. Throw in a gust of wind and some rough waves, and things can go wrong very quickly.
That is if you don’t know how to maneuver the boat correctly. Luckily, docking is not that hard.
This post is all about how to pull a boat up to a dock with safety. Read till the end for my top six safety tips.
How to Pull a Boat Up to a Dock in 4 Steps
There are multiple things to focus on as you pull a boat up to a dock. Your docking technique shouldn’t be one of your concerns.
To dock a boat, all you need to do is follow these four steps, and you’ll be alongside the dock without any crashes.
1, Plan Your Approach
Before you approach the dock at the point where you want to come alongside, plan everything in your mind. Your plan should be according to the direction of the wind and waves.
If the current is pushing you towards the dock, approach the dock at a 10-20 degree shallow angle to keep control as you drift towards the landing point.
If the current is pushing you away from the dock, a slower speed and an angle steeper than 45 degrees will help you keep momentum.
You may want to start with a 30-40 degree angle and see what works for you. Plus, you might also have to put the boat in reverse to control the position if it’s necessary. The bow should be aligned with the center of your landing point at all times.
In addition to that, if you have any deck-hands, tell them precisely what you want them to do. It will prepare everyone on board and save you any last-minute panic.
2. Approach Slowly
Take your time when you are moving towards the dock. The general rule is that you don’t want to be any faster than you are willing to hit the dock.
Keep going into gear and out of gear to manage your speed as you slowly close into the spot where you will be stopping. If you are driving a twin-engine boat, use one engine at a time to maintain the slow progress.
3. Swing Timely
When you are about 10-15 feet away from the landing point, swing the wheel away from the dock.
At this point, knowing when to turn the wheel is important. If you turn too soon, you will remain far from the dock. Turn too late, and you might bump.
4. Pull Up
As the boat glides toward the dock in a parallel position, and you swing the wheel, put the engine into reverse. It will stop the forward motion and kick the stern to port and closer to the dock.
Once the boat has stopped moving, put it in neutral. It will make the boat slip up to the dock, and you will have plenty of time to jump out and catch the boat or grab a lining.
Lastly, secure your boat, and that’s it. Now you know how to pull a boat up to a dock.
How to Pull a Boat Up to a Dock: Safety Tips
Even when you know the techniques, you still have to keep a few tips in mind to land safely.
Observe the Wind
Before pulling up, observe the direction of the wind and reduce the sail area if it’s necessary. On a powerboat, the sail area refers to all the flat surfaces that catch the wind, such as windows.
In this case, open the windows for the wind to pass through the boat. This way, it won’t push against the boat like a sail. This is especially useful for trawlers with an enclosed top.
If the wind is still pushing you away from the dock, use a spring line to get closer to the landing spot.
Keep Necessary Accessories
Fenders are must-have boat accessories as they can save you hundreds of dollars on boat damage. Your boat should be rigged on both sides with at least two to three fenders, a bowline, a spring line, and a stern line.
The fenders should be placed where they will help the most. Usually, they should be hanging right above the waterline and not touching the water at all. When they are correctly placed, they will ensure smooth landing alongside the dock.
Don’t Forget a Bowline
If you have a deckhand, ask them to hand the bowline to someone on the dock once you are close enough.
The person at the dock should lock down the bowline without putting too much force to pull it in as it will only move the stern away from the pier.
Once you have safely pulled the boat up to the dock, wait until all the lines are securely locked before you shut off the engine.
If you shut it off too soon, and a deckhand misses to lasso a piling, you won’t be able to maneuver anymore. So, keep the engine on in case you need to move a little at the end.
Don’t Hesitate to Abort
If you feel like you will not be able to pull up to the dock in one go, don’t hesitate to abort. This tip is especially useful for small sailboats and single-crew inboards.
It can be challenging for starters to execute their planned approach when things aren’t in their favor, such as a strong wind.
And that’s okay.
Simply turn back to some distance and try again.
Use Your Anchor
Everyone knows that boats use anchors as emergency breaks. If you have one on board, use it.
It is important to know how to anchor a boat if the wind is blowing strong, and you have to find a sheltered harbor. It is also useful to make any emergency stops close to a dock.
Now that you know all about how to pull a boat up to a dock, you can avoid any mistakes and awkward moments next time.
Hopefully, my safety tips will help you with future docking and make your boat last a long time.