Look Like a Pro

By: Zuzana Prochazka

QuestionThe busy season is coming up on my launch ramp, and I’m already dreading tying up with all the chaos at the nearby dock where people seem to leave only the tightest of spaces between them. What’s the best way to squeeze into a parallel parking situation while waiting to use the ramp?

Answer

Docking is possibly the most challenging boating skill to master, and when you’ve got a boat behind and ahead in a small space, it can be stressful. Add to that wind, current and an audience, and it can be a less-than-magical experience. However, assuming wind and current aren’t huge factors, sometimes you can manage to get in just enough of your boat (bow or stern) to catch a line on a cleat and then let the boat do the rest with momentum.

Take for example, the situation of an empty cleat ahead of where you want to end up at the dock. Poke your bow in just enough to get a line off the bow to a cleat (or to someone who can help you get it on a cleat) and then back up. When the boat pulls to port in reverse (like with a right-turning propeller) it will automatically bring the stern in. In fact, you can just back up with the rudder amidships and the boat will back down on that line until it is even with the dock, tied port to.

Now, if you have a free cleat just ahead of another boat that you want to end up in front of, back in (port or starboard depending on how you want to end up at the dock) just enough to get a line on from the aft quarter. Now drive slowly forward until you come along the dock and can get a bowline on.

To leave a crowded dock without much room ahead or behind, back on a forward spring line tied to your aft quarter closest to the dock. That will swing the bow out into the opposite direction and pivot you out of a tight spot. Make sure to use a couple of fenders back there, because you’re going to make contact with the dock as the line goes taut.

There are dozens of videos on YouTube for various docking situations of single and twin-screw boats and even outboards.

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