Boat Docking 101

It’s time start thinking about getting out on Lake Champlain to enjoy a day of boating. There are plenty of experienced boaters, but there are also some first time boaters hitting the water… and the docks.

Unskilled docking can result in damage to your and others’ boats, to the dock and even injury to you and your passengers, but with patience and practice it’s a skill that can be learned.

Although docking technique will always depend on the weather and wind conditions, there are a few things to keep in mind.



First, practice makes perfect. Although we can offer helpful tips, docking is something you will have to customize to your experience, the conditions, the boat, and the dock itself.


A common mistake is approaching the dock in a straight line. It is easier to get close to the dock, and improve the accuracy of your approach, by approaching the dock at an angle. Also, your incoming speed must be controlled. This is not as simple as it sounds. Idle speeds can often be too fast too fast, and coasting reduces steering capability- making it even more difficult to line up  accurately with the dock. The answer is to alternate between power – for steering (short bursts of forward gear) and coasting- for speed control.


This will take lots of practice. As you near the dock start to turn the boat, and decelerate to a stop by using reverse. Remember: deceleration reduces the ability to steer. You will have to rely on the boat’s momentum.


Momentum and speed are not the same. Momentum is simply the forward motion of the boat that will actually carry you into the dock. You will need just enough momentum to get you to the dock and allow you to smoothly make the shift to reverse to stop. Once you’ve actually mastered this task, you’ll probably agree that the best docking technique is the one that you learn by trial and error. Nothing will be a better teacher than practice, practice, practice.

The best advice is to go slow; don’t get nervous or discouraged, and most importantly, remember that every time you try it, will make the next time a little easier.