White boat docked on a canal, surrounded by trees.

Here at Decks & Docks, we know how important it is to take care of not only your deck, but also your watercraft.  Not being able to dock correctly could potentially cause damage to your boat. In order to ensure you have both the required knowledge and materials to get the job done right, we’ve provided a quick guide for the best ways to dock some of the most common vessels. 

How to Dock a Small Boat

Learning the art of how to dock a boat can be tricky due to different sizes calling for different procedures. Smaller watercraft are generally a little more straightforward to dock, being maneuverable by manpower alone. 

Kayaks

The first thing you will want to do is to paddle your way up to a dock. Then, you must tie the bow and the stern to it with a good boating knot

Ensure you keep the boat close enough that the wind and waves will not push the kayak into the dock or pull the vessel away from it. After this, try to adjust the bow and stern lines so that the kayak lines up with the dock. 

If you are worried about scratching your vessel, place some cushioning between the dock and your kayak such as dock fenders

Canoes

Just like with kayaks, you first want to paddle your canoe up to the dock. After this, you need to tie your canoe to it with a boating knot. 

Then, put your hands on the side of the dock, slowly pulling yourself into a crouching position. Once you do this, bring your dominant leg over the side of the boat onto the dock, along with your dominant hand. Once the vessel feels stable, pull yourself out of the canoe.

Paddle Boats

Docking paddle boats is basically the same as the process for kayaks and canoes. The main difference is the size. Since a paddle boat is bigger than both a kayak or canoe, it will be heavier and harder to pull up to the dock.

Once you have pulled up, the weight of the vessel should make it stable  enough to dismount easily. Secure the boat with a good boating knot and step out onto the dock slowly and carefully.

How to Dock a Small Speedboat

Before docking, remember that the stern controls the boat, not the bow. Knowing this and having a good feel for directing your boat are both crucial to dock your craft smoothly. 

Remember to keep the throttle on the lowest setting possible when maneuvering next to a dock with a small speedboat—doing so will make it easier to pull parallel with the dock. 

It may also help to keep it in neutral and only apply short bursts of forward and backward motion, as this will be steadier than trying to control a constant stream of momentum.

Once you are next to the dock, secure the boat to it, and you’re all set to dismount.

How to Dock a Sailboat

Learning how to dock a boat can be intimidating when maneuvering larger vessels such as sailboats. However, sticking to these tips will have you docking like a pro in no time. Because a sailboat is so heavy, you will need to pay attention to the wind’s direction and speed, as well as the current. 

The best way to dock a sailboat is to let the wind and waves do most of the work. Proceeding slowly with very gentle corrections is beneficial when docking a vessel of this weight. 

After you have aligned yourself with the dock, secure your vessel with a boating knot. A boat this size may require several people to dock, so make sure you test out docking with some assistance before trying it on your own. 

Once you have secured your vessel, step out of the boat and onto the dock.

How to Back into a Slip

 Docking in a slip is a very common thing for boaters, so learning how to dock a boat in a slip is beneficial no matter your skill level. 

If you ever encounter a situation when you will have to back into a slip, having your docking lines and fenders out is the first thing you will want to do. As with docking all boats with engines, you need to start maneuvering at a slow speed. It decreases the chances of scraping or damaging your vessel.

You can choose to pull forward into a slip, but doing this will make it harder to pull out of it later. The best option is to back into the slip. 

Before starting, tell your passenger to stay seated during the whole process. Minimizing movement will help keep the boat steady, and it will make the whole process easier. 

To start, turn your wheel to the center. Then, you can start slowly backing into the slip. Once your vessel is in the slip, give it one small boost of forward power to stop your reverse motion. Then, tie your lines with good boating knots and moor the vessel. You can also invest in mooring equipment to minimize scratches and dents.

Bottom Line

Learning how to dock a boat is one of the first things a boater should do after getting their boating license. If you do not know how to dock a boat, you could get into serious trouble if no one is around to help you. 

Using these tips and tricks for docking should give you the tools you need to be a top-notch boat docker in no time. Remember, practice makes perfect, so make sure you practice docking your vessel as much as possible after reading this article to retain the knowledge. 

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