Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Five Boating Safety Tips for the Timid Docker

Are You Terrified of Docking Your Boat? Take These Top Five Docking Safety Tips and Conquer Your Fears!

Introduction by 
William L. Gills aka Bos'n Bill

In two previous popular posts with video presentation, A Boater's Worst Fear - Docking and Example of Boat Docking Finesse! we recognized docking as a major cause of apprehension for some boaters and then demonstrated how it's done with confidence and apparent ease.  The following article by Barbara Day, provides some practical advice on docking to quell one of a boaters principal fears.

Article by Barbara Day 
While many boaters boast about being great captains, only a few can claim to be masters at docking.

Just like learning how to operate and steer a vessel, docking is another essential skill for all boaters. Like parallel parking with cars, however, docking is something that many new boaters are very uncomfortable with, some terrified of.  It takes a lot of practice and time to become skilled at anything - and docking is no exception.

Here are some helpful hints for those who don't want to ruin their expensive toys when they’re finished on the water.

1) Slow and Steady
Slow and steady wins the race, but it also leads to successful docking. It is never a good idea to approach a dock at anything over a turtle's crawl.

Lower the boat's speed as much as possible, but ensure that it is still possible to steer and maneuver. If the boat is approaching too quickly bow to, go into reverse to stop the acceleration away from the dock. Just the reverse is true when maneuvering stern to.

2) Watch the Wind
The wind will surely affect how the boat handles when docking.  To determine which way the wind is blowing and how hard, pay attention to the flag, pennant or burgee on your boat or the flagpole at the dock or other boats. While the current also causes the boat to move in a certain direction, it is more likely that both the wind and current are going the same way.

For a wind that is blowing against entry, it is easiest to go head-on into the breeze until the last moment to prevent being pushed back out. When the boat is an ideal distance away, turn at a sharp angle to align the boat with the marine dock. When the wind is blowing the boat towards the dock, simply stop the engine or put it in neutral with the boat parallel to it, and let the breeze take the boat in.

3) Go with the Flow
The water current behaves much like the wind, but it can cause more of a problem because it bounces back when it hits a barrier. This can throw off timing and planning, so watch the waves, and study its patterns before making an attempt to dock.

4) Pay Attention to the Surroundings
Docks can be tight and filled with other boats, so make sure to pay close attention to the amount of room surrounding the boat. The positioning of other docked boats can greatly affect the difficulty of docking.

When maneuvering into a narrow space with a single entryway, make sure there is sufficient room when turning the boat to avoid colliding with the dock or another vessel.

5) Prepare the Boat for Contact
When approaching the dock, be ready to use the stern lines and bow lines. Timing is key during docking, so the boat needs to be tied down quickly and correctly.

Remember to also attach fenders to the boat to shield it from colliding with the dock. Concrete docks can cause extensive damage on impact if they're not equipped with dock bumpers and pads.

Boat Docking Video: See How It’s Done In a Small Boat
Same tips apply for larger boats.

There you have it, Five tips that should reduce your anxiety about docking! Have any tips of your own? Please share in a comment. Want more info?  Here’s some additional boat docking detail from Boat/US.   

Article by Barbara Day, 
Contributing author and experienced boating enthusiast.

William L. Gills aka Bos'n Bill, webmaster of this site, is the author of the book Lubber's log, published by Llumina Press; a boating journal and adventure story of the author's first time experiences in the preparation, maintenance and piloting of a new, unfamiliar boat. You can visit his website here.

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