Docking a boat is a crucial skill and the ultimate challenge for South African skippers. One wrong move and you may harm other boats, the marina, or yourself. In this article, we shall discover some basic docking safety tips for beginner skippers in South Africa.

The Four Crucial Factors of Docking a Boat

If you have ever struggled to park a car, you may understand the frustrations of docking a boat very well. However, we must admit that while docking a boat may seem complicated, it does not have to be.

When it comes to docking a boat, always pay attention to these factors: wind direction, tides, angle of approach, and speed. Controlling your boat in accordance with these factors will help you efficiently dock the boat. Docking is a swift process and your correct and decisive actions will determine whether you would get it right.

Basic Docking Safety Tips for Beginner Skippers in South Africa

1. Maintain a slow and steady approach

This goes without saying, yet it is crucial to mention this. Maintain a slow and steady approach as you approach near a dock. Also, marinas have rules and regulations, including speed limits. Make sure you familiarise yourself with them prior to launching/docking your boat.

A slow and steady approach will give you more space to make appropriate docking decisions. Besides that, you will also have better odds of reacting to adverse or unexpected situations.

This basic docking safety tip is often neglected as beginners may feel the illusion of control on their boat. However, driving a boat is way different from a car. As a beginner South African skipper, you should take this slowly, no matter how long it takes.

2. Prepare Fenders and Docking Lines

Prior to beginning the process of docking, you should deploy fenders and ready the lines. However, keep them inside the boat until you actually approach a pier. The fenders will act as a shield/cushion to absorb the impact between a ship’s hull and the dock, keeping your boat and the marina property safe. The lines will secure your boat on the marina.

3. Determine the Wind Direction and Water Currents

The wind direction and water currents will determine whether you have to go with the flow or fight against it. It’s fairly simple. If the wind direction/water currents (either of them) are favouring you—as in flowing towards the marina—then you will not have to ‘nudge’ the engine as much as you approach docking. But if not, then a little nudge now and then will be necessary during the docking process.

Ultimately, your goal is to maintain headway towards your destination, and understanding these environmental factors will help you make an efficient decision.

4. The Docking Process

By now, you should already have your fenders in position and your docking lines ready.

As you approach the pier, steer your boat towards the starboard (right) side if you plan on docking on the port side. Shift your gear to neutral to bring your stern closer to the pier. Then, use the momentum to align your boat parallel to the pier. Next, turn your controls to the port side and shift to reverse to move your stern towards the port.

Once your boat levels with the pier, secure the boat with the docking lines. You may feel like rushing at this moment but take it slow and easy. After docking, your boat should stay fairly steady, giving you enough time to tie down the lines to secure your boat.

In Conclusion

The holiday season has started looming on the horizon, but you still have plenty of time. Currently, it might not be a good time to take out your boat for practising, but you will still have plenty of time before you can safely enjoy your holiday on your boat. For beginner skippers in South Africa, it’s important to remember these basic docking safety tips. With a little practice, you should be okay.

Also, the words alone may not convey how the docking process works. But the Len’s Cove Lessons channel on YouTube has some great tips along with a demonstration. Make sure you give it a view!

If you require a Skipper’s License or a VHF Radio Certificate in South Africa, feel free to connect with us today!

Basic Docking Safety Tips for Beginner Skippers in South Africa