Image of a boat in a marina at sunset.

10. Relax.

First things first: Boating is supposed to be fun. A lot of people tend to forget that when a docking experience goes awry. Good dockmanship is a skill that can be learned, so there’s no need to stress when it doesn’t go perfectly every time. There are plenty of articles, videos, and instruction around to help you overcome your hurdles. With boating, what you get out of it depends on the work you put into it. Try to enjoy the process of learning.

Image of a grocery cart beside the water.9. Practice in the grocery store.

You read that right. A boat moves more like a grocery cart than a car; boating is all about moving on an axis. If you have twin engines, your left and right hand on the cart represent the left and the right engines. If you put equal pressure on both hands, you’ll move forward. If you hold steady on the left while pushing on the right, you’ll curve gracefully to your right. If you pull back hard on the left while pushing on the right, you’ll spin more tightly. Wax on, wax off. The same can be said about a single-engine boat! Try positioning one hand in the middle of the shopping cart’s bar. Pushing your wrist to the right will swing the cart to the left, and vice-versa. This visual will help you when you’re on the water, and you won’t risk damage to your boat in the meantime.

8. Have a plan.

Before you start docking, make sure you have a plan in mind and then communicate it to your crew. Make note of the conditions that are working for or against you. Be specific. Heavy handed? No way. You’ll thank yourself for having communicated the game plan before starting. You and your crew will be working toward the same goal while docking, and that’s a powerful thing.

7. Prepare to dock.

Reduce your speed, ready your fenders, and make sure the docking lines are secured onboard. If you make a ritual around your docking set-up every time, it’ll mean you and your crew are in position and problems will be minimized.

6. Practice, practice, practice.

You can tie pool noodles onto your dock to practice, or even throw a lifejacket in the water to practice pulling up beside it. “Practice makes perfect”, as they say. Try not to miss an opportunity—especially when conditions are less than ideal—to clock in some good-old-fashioned practice time with your crew. The teamwork and experience will serve you well when you have to pull in to a tight slip with heavy cross wind!

Image of an old dock5. Slow down.

Never approach a dock any faster than you’re willing to hit it.

4. Crew communication is key.

Commit to a common language with your crew. “Just go a little bit further” is a very different command than “3 more feet.” Specificity can greatly reduce the stress level of your docking experience.

3. Know the wind.

The effects of wind when docking can’t be understated. They can be subtle or significant, and there’s no substitute for experience. A wind or current behind you can cause you to go over your mark. A wind or current against you can mean that you need more momentum to finish docking. Make a habit of noting the direction and intensity of the wind, and observing its effects on your boat.

Image of boats in a Marina2. Know your boat.

Copying the docking techniques of other boaters will not necessarily help when docking your boat. Powerboats can have 5′ to 15′ of superstructure above water, which can exponentially increase windage. Similarly, the shape and depth of your keel can mean you’ll experience more or less lateral resistance to the wind than other boats.

1. Install Sideshift thrusters.

For the ultimate in fail-safe control, Sideshift bow and stern thrusters will eliminate your stress and provide peace of mind in virtually any docking situation. For the new boater or seasoned pro, Sideshift’s affordable, high performance thruster technology is the right solution for perfect docking, every time.

Choose a Bow or Stern Thruster

Bow Thrusters

Mounted on the forward-most location of your boat. Can be mounted on any V-shaped bow.

See Our Bow Thrusters

Stern Thrusters

Mounts easily on the transom or swim platform of your boat. Can be mounted to any horizontal or vertical surface.

See Our Stern Thrusters

Request More Information.

Interested is purchasing a new Sideshift bow or stern thruster system? Ordering couldn’t be simpler, and neither can the installation! Contact Sideshift today by calling 1.877.325.4787 to speak with a representative or by sending an email. We’ll help you select the best product for your boat. 

You can also order your Sideshift products online by going to our bow thruster and stern thruster pages to view our products.