Safe Boating Course

CHAPTER 6: On The Waterways


One of the most challenging operations in the repertoire of boating skills is docking and mooring your boat. Maneuvering your boat safely into dock is hard enough when the waters are calm—now add high traffic, choppy water and windy conditions to the mix!

You'll find docking is a real skill that demands serious practice.


To become a pro at docking and mooring, always keep the following guidelines top of mind.

First, before you approach the dock, reduce your speed and use reverse gear to bring the boat to a stop. Prepare to dock by securing your fenders on the docking side and readying your bow and stern lines.

Next, take note of the wind and water current direction by observing which way your boat drifts. Whenever possible, you should approach the dock into the wind or current. This will give you more control when maneuvering the boat.

If you are heading to a marina with limited docking stations, you may have to wait for a spot to open up. Be patient and courteous. Approach only when there is an open station, and make 5 sure you have communicated your intention to other waiting or departing vessels before making your move.

If there’s no wind or water current, approach the dock slowly at a narrow angle, about 20 degrees. Then, when the boat is close enough to the dock, designate a passenger to step on shore to secure the stern and bow lines.


The direction of the wind and the flow of the water current have a huge impact on docking.


If the wind is in your face or pushing you away from the dock, approach the dock slowly at a steep angle of about 30 to 45 degrees. When you’re close to the dock, shift into reverse gear to stop the boat, and have a passenger secure the bow line. Then, briefly shift into forward gear at idle speed, and steer the wheel away from the dock until the stern swings in. Then, secure the stern line.


If the wind is at your back or pushing you towards the dock, approach the dock slowly at a shallow angle, about 10 to 20 degrees. Then, shift into neutral and allow the wind to drift the boat gently into the dock. If you have to adjust your position, briefly shift into gear as needed. Secure the bow and stern lines.