How to Dock a Boat

The thought of incorrectly docking your boat should never loom over a relaxing cruise with family and friends. There are several factors to consider when learning how to dock a boat — including the boat and dock type, the wind, current, fenders, and lines. Here are the step-by-step docking basics so you can quickly master the task by following a few foundational rules. 

Table of Contents

How to Approach the Dock Safely

The way you approach a dock — along with your boat angle — are two of the most crucial steps to master. Try the following when bringing your boat toward the pier:

  • Reduce your boat speed to slow and then very slow.
  • The boat’s side brought against the pier should be fitted with ropes and fenders for mooring the ship to the dock. These should be set in the boat’s bits or cleats.
  • Assign a boat passenger to carry out the job of staying to the side of the boat. They should have a boat hook to fend off or catch the pier when needed.
  • When approaching the pier, set engine rpm to idle and position the boat’s bow toward the docking point.
  • The angle of the approach to the dock should be less than 30 degrees.

How to Dock the Boat 

Once you’ve achieved a boat angle of approach of fewer than 30 degrees, follow these steps to pull into a marina spot correctly and safely:

  • When the ship comes within 10 meters of the docking point, shift the boat’s engine into neutral. Then, let the vestigial momentum carry you to the pier. 
  • Turn the steering wheel away from the dock just before touching it. This should bring your boat parallel to the pier for effective docking.
  • If your boat comes to a full stop a little ways away from the pier, put the engine in gear again for short intervals until you safely meet your destination.
  • If you find you are approaching the dock with too much speed, shift the engine into reverse to slow the boat’s forward momentum. 
  • When there are strong head or tail winds, reduce the engine rpm to idle and make your approach at a smaller angle than 30 degrees. 
  • If a side wind is blowing from the pier’s direction, reduce the engine rpm to idle and approach at a larger angle than 30 degrees. 
  • When a side wind is blowing toward the pier, reduce the engine rpm to idle and approach the dock at a smaller angle than 30 degrees. 

Tying a Boat to a Dock Cleat

The final step to docking a boat is tying the boat’s mooring ropes at the bow and stern to the bits or cleats on the pier. It’s important to know how to tie a cleat. Make sure the two lines directly on top of the cleat run parallel to each other. 

The next step involves the dock lines you’ll use to secure the boat to the dock. Although every vessel tied to a pier will have a bowline, the number of lines used will vary depending on the vessel’s size. These lines should run perpendicular from the ship to the dock and are essential to keep the boat sitting parallel to the pier.

Finally, you’ll need to ensure the boat will not move forward or backward using spring lines. These two lines need to run in different directions, one preventing the ship from moving back and one holding it from going forward. You will also need a sufficient amount of fenders out to keep the boat off the dock. The fenders’ bottoms should not be in the water in order to help keep your boat clean. 

Tying a Boat to a Dock Post

You can also tie your boat to a post if there are no cleats available. The simplest way to do this is by securing a clove knot. To execute this knot, loop the post with the knot, pass the free side underneath itself, and then pull it tight. Repeat this step a couple of times to ensure a secure knot. 

If you’re caught in rough conditions, we recommend using the pile hitch for a more secure connection. Just double the line and wrap it around the post from front to back. Then, loop the rope over the top of the post and tug it — make sure not to leave too much leeway.

When you’re ready to take your boat back out on the water, pull the knot off the pole before starting the engine.

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Explore EZ Dock cleats and dock accessories today!