Docking Problems: Don’t Smash Up The Boat!

Docking a powerboat can be extremely stressful, especially when there are a lot of eyes on you. On the other hand, it can also be quite entertaining, if you’re one of the people doing the watching instead of the docking. So, how are you going to make sure everything goes smoothly? Here are a few docking problems you need to keep on the lookout for.

dock a boat

Docking a boat can be a stressful experience.

1. Current – not only can current take you off-target, it can also play funny tricks like pulling on a line hanging from a dock or piling, so it crosses your path (and will tangle your prop). To combat it, always shift into neutral before you begin your approach, so you can gauge how strong the current is, and how it will affect you. Then, plan your approach starting from an up-current position as necessary.

2. Wind – Here’s another tricky factor that can send you sailing off-course as you attempt to dock your boat. Again, the key to defeating it is to allow your boat to drift in neutral for a few moments before you begin your approach. Then consider it’s effects, as you go back into gear and decide how to best aim the boat.

3. Mechanical Failure – Ouch, this one can lead to serious damage. A sudden stall can eliminate your ability to shift into reverse and slow your approach, as well as eliminating all steering control. The only counter-measure at your disposal is to always approach slowly. The general rule of thumb is to go no faster than you’re willing to hit the dock.

4. Distractions – Nothing is worse than when a chatty passenger decides to ask a question, right as you begin your docking maneuvers. Stay focused, ask them to hold on for a second or two, and all will go well.

Bonus Tip: Want to learn more? Check out this How to Dock a Powerboat video, which takes you through the basic steps of the process.


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  1. TD

    I got a flash-back queasy feeling when I saw the title of this post. After about 10 years of owning a boat and fighting currents, wind, etc. in putting my boat back on the trailer or working it back into my boat slip in Galveston–all with only minor problems relatively speaking–I had a serious “oh %*#$%” moment this summer. I was trying to ease back into my boat slip–while trying to dodge the unused fishing rods and crab trap left out near my discourteous neighbor’s boat slip (where they leave them as permanent obstructions). Just as I was reaching the point of no return on my entry, just when I had to carefully and precisely hit reverse and re-angle the entry approach, one of my passengers started asking me a question and accidentally dropped the push pole. That was all it took to distract me, and as I tried to recover from getting my boat all askew…I went too far with the throttle and ended up running my bow up onto the bulkhead. Still makes me sick to think about it–and of course there were neighbors out all over the canal! Great post. Now how about recommendations on where to find a new anchor roller??

    • LRudow

      *Sigh* Yes, dontcha just love it when someone strikes up a conversation, right as you’re on the final approach…? D’op!