Your docking technique depends on current and wind. Current affects all boats equally, but wind has a greater influence on light boats with high topsides, cabin structures and shallow underbodies—a typical planing cruiser.
Before docking, check flags or ripples in the water to determine wind direction and strength. Note the direction moored boats similar to yours are pointing.
Deploy lines and fenders in advance, and brief crew members on your intentions and their roles. Leave yourself an escape route.
In general, your angle of approach depends upon the wind direction:
- When heading with the wind or current, approach the dock at an angle of 10 degrees or less.
- When heading into the wind or current, approach the dock at a 15-degree angle.
- When the wind or current are negligible, approach the dock at a 20-degree angle.
- When the wind or current is coming off the dock, increase your angle of approach to about 30 degrees.
For single-engine inboard powerboats or auxiliary sailboats, a port-side-to landing is most convenient, especially if you have a right-handed prop.
With negligible wind, approach at 20 degrees; slow to bare steerageway; and just before touching, turn parallel to the dock and apply a touch of reverse power. The resulting prop walk will nudge your port quarter into the dock. Have a crew member step onto the dock with dock lines already cleated on the inboard side.
With significant wind or current parallel to the dock, approach into the wind or current if you can. Pass a bowline or forward spring line to a dockside helper, who will tie off the line forward of the boat. If a crewmember takes the line ashore, she should step, not leap, onto the dock. As the boat is pushed back by the wind or current, the line becomes taut, and the stern settles in toward the dock.
To learn more about docking and handling your powerboat, take the Boat Handling under Power seminar from a USPS Squadron near you.