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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How To Dock A Boat

There are many resources out there for learning how to dock a boat, some good, some not so good.  So, there is no reason to repeat what everyone else is already telling you.  However, as you peruse these sources of instruction, you may develop the same eye-glazed look as I did, which leaves you saying, 'wait a minute...back up the boat!'

Docking a boat is not easy; however, believe it or not, you probably already have all the coordination you need to get it done properly.  Docking is a controlled collision.  Remember that: controlled collision.  As soon as you can allow that fact to hit home, you will have a much easier time figuring out the docking procedure.

There's only one rule: Preparation!  Know how your boat handles, know what the wind speed is and from what direction it is blowing, know where the current is taking you, and hover out there in the water until you can really feel how all of those forces are interacting on your hull.  Then, prepare your boat AND your crew.  Docking can be made much easier if you take some serious time to not only set your lines and fenders but also more importantly describe, in detail, exactly what the boat will do and exactly what you want each crew member to do, and when!

Good preparation is key to any docking, whether you're experienced or not.  After preparation, there is simply patience and practice, which rounds out our 3P's of docking.  Don't dock quickly, ever.  You don't get points for getting tied up quickly; you do get points taken away by your insurance company when you collide with another boat or the dock too hard!

Study single and dual-prop docking dynamics with resources like Chapman's Seamanship or Powerboat Handling Illustrated.  Then keep the 3P's - Preparation, Patience, Practice - in mind when you're out on the boat.  It's a controlled collision, so use your best coordination skills to get your beloved boat into the dock safely.  And, most importantly, don't get too upset if it doesn't go we'll all the time.  Even the best old salts have trouble sometimes!

A note on IPS: IPS, or any joystick system, is a great way for docking woes to become a thing of the past.  It's also great technology to get other crew mates involved in the piloting process.  However, don't underestimate the fragility of marine systems; know how to dock your boat with conventional controls, even if your boat is equipped with a joystick.  You never know when you might need those skills!

How to dock a boat
Courtesy boatdocking.com

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