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10 Tips to Make Docking Easy and Safe

October 17, 2022 Boating Accident Injury & Death

While most people assume that docking a boat is just like parking a car, experienced boaters know that this is not the case. Docking a boat is much more challenging—and the worse the conditions get, the more challenging it becomes.

But, since unsafe docking practices can lead to injuries, boat captains need to know how to avoid collisions when pulling into slips or pulling up to docks. If a captain makes a mistake that results in a recreational boat accident or yacht accident, passengers who get injured may be able to hire a Miami boating accident lawyer to file a claim for just compensation.

How To Dock Safely and Easily In (Almost) Any Conditions

So, what can (and should) boat captains do to avoid accidents while docking? Here are 10 tips for docking safely and easily in (almost) any weather and water conditions:

1. Don’t Try To Show Off

Docking isn’t easy. Some boaters are much better at it than others. When it is time to dock, this is not a time to try to show off your skills. Taking unnecessary risks frequently leads to accidents—especially on the water—and passengers will be just as impressed if you make a gradual approach that gets them home safely.

2. Don’t Go Any Faster Than Necessary

There is a common saying in boating: “Don’t approach a dock faster than you are willing to hit it.” While this sounds a little bit silly, it is actually very good advice. Many boaters approach docking much too fast, assuming they will be able to use a quick blast of reverse throttle to slow them down. Not only does this rarely work as intended, but it also significantly increases the risk of passengers losing their balance and needing the services of a Miami boating accident lawyer.  

3. Don’t Forget to Get Ready

Docking requires a captain’s complete attention. Before you begin to approach a dock or slip, you should already be prepared to make a slow and safe approach. Among other things, this means:

  • Knowing which way the tide is flowing
  • Setting your fenders
  • Untangling and tying off your dock lines
  • Providing instructions to your passengers
  • Communicating with the dockmaster or dockhands

4. Have a Plan

One tip that applies to all aspects of boating is to have a plan. Recreational boaters should have a float plan that they leave with someone on land, and when it is time to dock, they should have a plan for exactly how they will get their boat where it needs to be. Typically, this means approaching against the tide (and against the wind, if possible), approaching at the correct angle, and being prepared to steer and use brief throttle inputs (or “blips”) to guide the boat slowly and safely into place.

5. Pay Attention to the Wind

While tides are predictable, winds often aren’t. Winds can change directions or swirl, and large yachts can block the wind or create “wind tunnels” that provide a sudden and unexpected blast. As a result, boat captains need to pay attention to the wind throughout the docking process. If the winds change, boat captains should be prepared to counteract the wind while still remaining on course for the dock or slip.

6. Be Patient

When faced with unfavorable conditions or a crowded marina, patience is key. Unless there is a storm on the horizon, you can generally wait for the wind to die down or for it to get closer to slack tide. Likewise, if other boats are in the way but will be underway soon (i.e., at a gas dock or public landing), then being patient and waiting for a larger docking area to come available can make docking much easier (and safer).

7. Be Courteous

In the same vein as being patient, boaters should also be courteous when docking. Telling other captains that they are going too slow or barking directions to dockhands is rarely (if ever) the best approach. If you are dealing with a challenging docking situation, others will recognize this, and if you are courteous, they will most likely be more than happy to help you however they can.

8. Avoid Distractions

Distractions are a common cause of boating accidents both while docking and while underway. When docking, boat captains should devote all of their focus to the task at hand. This means asking passengers to wait if they have questions or comments, and it means leaving your phone out of reach until your boat is safely tied to at least two cleats on the dock.

9. Don’t Try To Dock (or Boat in General) While Drunk

Alcohol intoxication is also a common cause of boating accidents. Boat captains should not be drunk under any circumstances, and they certainly should not try to dock while their physical, cognitive and visual capabilities are impaired. Accidents involving drunk boaters will typically lead to passenger injuries and the need to hire a Miami boating accident lawyer as well.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Finally, boat captains should practice docking as much as necessary to build their competence. Getting good at docking takes time, and boaters should not rush to take others out on the water before they are prepared to get their passengers home safely. The best way to practice docking is to go out early before most other boaters are on the water and approach the dock multiple times from each direction until you can consistently make a safe approach. Boating safety courses are available as well, and even one docking instruction session can be extremely helpful for inexperienced boaters.

Speak with a Miami Boating Accident Lawyer in Confidence

If you have been injured in a docking accident (or any other type of recreational boat or yacht accident), you may have a claim under maritime law. To discuss your legal rights with a Miami boating accident lawyer in confidence, please call 800-499-0551 or tell us what happened online today.