Don't approach a dock at high speed. Throttle down gently to keep your craft under control. Decide whether you will dock on port or starboard, put out the fenders, break out docking lines and ready the boat hook. Tell each crew member what specific chore he or she is to do.

Docking technique is determined by whichever is stronger at the moment, the wind or the current. This can be determined from the way in which anchored boats in the immediate vicinity are lying and from flags which show the direction and the strength of the wind.

The simplest method is to head into the wind or current so it will help you stop as you come in. Wise boatowners bring their boat to dead stop a few lengths away from the dock. This allows an opportunity to observe the combined effect of wind and current.

Leaving the Dock

When tied to the weather side of the dock, or when the current is pushing you onto the dock, use both your engine and a bow line to get underway. Cast off the stern line. Turn the wheel towards the dock to swing the stern forward with a fender to cushion your bow if it hits the dock. Proceed ahead for a few revolutions dead slow. This should kick the stern a safe distance away from the dock. When completely clear, head out to open water.

When tied to the leeward side of the dock, use an oar or a boat hook to simply push off. The wind or current will carry you far enough out for a safe departure.


Everyone should know how to quickly and correctly make fast to a cleat. Tied in the right way the line exerts the greatest strain next to the dock. Improperly making fast to a cleat may either cause the line to unexpectedly come loose, or prohibit you from freeing the line quickly if you should need to. Incorrect cleating can result in a serious accident. Make sure every crew member can cleat properly.