Episode #047: Your Pocket Sailing Instructor Podcast Docking: The Basics…

white yachts on body of water during sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Alright, we have all been there! You’re heading into the dock, speed is great, wind is great, crew are ready,… suddenly a boat starts leaving their slip right in front of you, your crew move aft to tell you only to drop the boat hook in the water, your other crew tries to grab the boat hook and drops the roving fender, and everyone on shore is watching. Yup. We have ALL been there! The lovely trials of docking…

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Here are my most recent episodes:

#59: Sails – Prevention & Basic Maintenance Your Pocket Sailing Instructor Podcast

  1. #59: Sails – Prevention & Basic Maintenance
  2. #58: When things go wrong… my 5 step process to stepping back and getting $hit done!
  3. #57: Chartering Step 3 – Trip planning, provisioning and check-out procedures

Docking Equipment

The basic equipment that you need for docking is not complicated, however if you don’t take care of it, or check on it regularly, you could find your boat trying to leave without you!

  • bow line
  • stern line
  • spring lines x 2
  • fenders x 3+
  • snubbers x 2
  • bow chocks
  • t-cleats

Checking Your Equipment

  • dock lines: checking for chaffing, wear, pulled strands, knots
  • fenders: checking for wear, holes, grime rubbing on paint, inflation
  • snubbers: checking for breakdown, check line for wear
  • chocks & cleats: checking to make sure nothing is rubbing on hull, through fiberglass, etc.

Types of Docks

There are many different types of docks and many different ways to dock a boat. I am going to discuss the basic principles that can be used for all types of docks to limit boat movement within the slip.

Image borrowed from: https://www.safe-skipper.com/competent-crew-skills-mooring-lines/

This diagram covers the main dock lines that you need for your boat. You need a bow line, a stern line and then two spring lines. The bow line controls the bow movement in towards the dock and away from the dock (finger slip in this case). The stern line does the same, but for the stern. So together, they control the in and out movement of the boat in relation to the finger dock. The bow spring line controls how far back/aft the boat moves, while the stern spring line controls how far forward the boat moves. So basically, between these four dock lines, you have controlled all of the movements your boat will make in its slip!

Some things to keep in mind:

  • check on your boat regularly as lines may freeze, loosen, wear down, etc.
  • do not tie your dock lines too tight. It is important to let the boat move around a bit in the slip as the wind and water move. This will make sure that the weight load remains on your dock lines and not your cleats.
  • readjust your fenders as needed. Sometimes they end up on top of the dock and really don’t do much for your hull. Usually they are places at the beam of the boat (widest part).

The key to successful docking is…

Practice, practice, practice! Get to know your boat. How does it handle under power? How does it handle waves, current, gusts? Practice helming your boat in circles going forwards and in reverse. See how long it takes to fully stop your boats’ momentum. These are all things that will greatly improve your chances of a successful docking!

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