Docking Advice:
Easy Does It

Published: January 2011

Whenever Seaworthy has written about docking techniques, the very first recommendation has always been to apply throttle gently when approaching a dock. The easy-does-it approach protects your boat's hull and in extreme cases the dock. An "extreme" case is much more likely to occur when a boat comes into its slip really, really fast.

Photo of a docking contest in Deal, Maryland

Consider the Labor Day Boat Docking Contest held each year for watermen at Deal Island, Maryland. One after the other, watermen race up to the slip, swing the sterns of their (single-screw) boats around, and roar into the slip stern first. A mate then throws lines over the pilings and a guy with a stopwatch records the time. A good skipper can dock a boat, start to finish, in maybe 20 seconds. That's really, really fast.


This past summer, one of the skippers miscalculated (with hundreds of spectators looking on), shoved the engine into reverse, and wound up busting a piling in half and wiping out the finger pier. It's a safe bet that everyone watching who owned a boat had the same thought: Hahahaha ... glad that wasn't me!

According to Doug Taylor, director of the Somerset County Roads Department, which also maintains the county's waterways, officials are reevaluating whether conducting boat-docking contests at a public facility is a good idea.

Photo of the Grand Rodosi

Another example of what can happen when you approach a dock a little too quickly, this one involving the grain carrier Grand Rodosi in Port Lincoln, Australia: The 738-foot vessel was coming into its berth this past October when its engine reportedly failed. Fortunately, it didn't hit the pier. Unfortunately, it plowed into the 154-foot Apollo S, a $25 million fishing vessel, which was moored at the pier. About 20 minutes after the collision, the Apollo S rolled over and sank. Miraculously, no one was injured, but the Grand Rodosi is reportedly being held in Port Lincoln while attorneys “sort out some liability issues.”End of story marker


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