Docking 101

Hey skipper, are you a bit too quick to do all the helming on your boat? Is your first-mate someone who desires to be better at docking the boat, but always wants to put it off for another day? Well, I found the cure! Just follow these steps and your first-mate will soon – and I do mean soon – become an expert at docking your boat single-handedly!

First, you’re going to need to pick a dock with a current – a substantial current, ideally. The current should be against you. Next, you’ll need some sort of an obstruction, ideally something formidable like the concrete footings of a giant bridge. Just place that about 20′ off the dock and 40′ aft of where you plan to dock. Perfect! Now you’re set. Let’s get docking!

Begin, as you normally do, with your first mate at the bow with a line in hand and you on the helm, executing a perfect approach. Arrive with the perfect alignment, at the perfect speed. Okay this next part is absolutely key: After you’ve basically arrived on the dock, jump off with the stern line – like you normally do, but this time, make a point of not noticing whether or not your first-mate actually stepped off before you. Just assume they did.

Now look up and let the pride of your perfect docking slip away, along with your boat, and your first mate. With a good current, this should be happening relatively fast. A number of interesting things may come to mind at this point. We can examine them in some detail, but first, throw your mate the stern line you’re holding. There’s not much you can do with it now. If you make the line now (that’s sailor talk for tie it up), the current will just send your boat on an arc away from the dock and then turn it 180 degrees and slam it into the boat docked just aft of you.

Throwing the line back to your mate helps seal the deal. She is now in complete control of everything, and you’re just gonna watch from the dock. Now start giving advice. Loudly. “Get that line out of the water first!” Very loudly. “Put it in forward.” For best effect, your mate should have substantial hearing loss, and their desire to hear what you’re saying should add another layer of mental taxation to what is already a substantially taxing situation.

As the boat begins to drift downstream, and your mate applies more throttle but without putting the boat in gear, continue bellowing words of advice into the ether. Also, wonder when you’ll next get to spend time with your mate. Will be it in a few minutes? Will it be hours from now. Does she have her phone with her? As you begin to panic, try bellowing words of encouragement. As you think to yourself “What the hell is she doing that for?”, shout “You got this, Love! No problem!” and things of that ilk. Remember, you caused this crazy problem in the first place. Wonder, will things ever be the same between us, after this. “You’re doing great. No don’t turn! Why are you turning? No problem, you got this!”

A few minutes-that-feel-like-hours later, your mate will bring the boat in for a second or maybe third attempt at reaching the dock. And on one of these attempts, you’re going to be able to grab a bow line. There! Now your mate knows how to helm the boat.

Some may find this approach a tad severe. I cannot guarantee that there won’t be some side effects such as nightmares, marital strain, etc. But so far, this technique seems to have worked well for us.


  1. Oh Thom and Kathleen! Talk about trial by fire, sink or swim, do or die! Actually I prefer what I said to myself when I merged terrifyingly and perfectly onto the Don Valley north for the first time in my early days of driving. “Necessity is the mother of ability!!!” 🤣👍😬


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s