Docking a boat is a challenging task for many that can turn into a disaster if not done right. So how about we cover one article related to boat docking? Here are some expert tips on docking your boat safely in South Africa.

Docking the Boat: Safety First

Docking a boat involves a lot of safety factors. They include the safety of public property, your boat, the lives around you, and your own life. You would not want to cause a stir around the dock now, would you?

Also, some insurance companies will not cover your boat in insurance in certain docking accidents as well. That’s double the motivation to practice docking safely, right!?

Also, I don’t know about you, but there is a special kind of satisfaction in docking a boat perfectly and safely, you know? I jest you not, you just have to do it to feel it inside you!

Tips for Docking a Boat Safely in South Africa

With practice, of course. But of course, anybody would tell you the same. In this article, we want to give some basic and specific pointers for docking a boat safely. Let us see them below.

Take it slow!

You saw that coming, did you not? But of course, taking it slow is the way to go! Being slow means you have more time to react, better control over your vessel, and the least chance of having a fatal accident. Remember, your boat does not have any actual brakes. Maintain your control on speed by taking your boat in and out of gear. Just give it a little nudge to maintain momentum.

Determine the Wind Direction

Where’s the wind coming from? Is it flowing opposite your boat’s direction, or is it flowing alongside your boat’s headway?

If it is flowing alongside your headway, then all you have to do is maintain headway with a little nudge to your engine. When the wind is against your set course, you may have to give the engine a little more power to push your boat towards the pier.

Understand the Water Currents

Every experienced boater will tell you that there are three factors to docking a boat: wind, water current, and your boat’s speed. Wind and current is the main reason why you want to avoid approaching fast as even when you turn off the engine, they will carry your boat. Now, how much power you want to give to your engines depends on whether you are riding with the flow or against the flow.

If you are riding with the flow, of course, you would want to give your engine less power. If you are riding against the flow, you would want to give your engine a bit more power to make it to the pier. Also, when you are riding against the current, you would want the bow or stern to face directly from the direction of the wave until you reach closer to the pier.

Trust us, we know when you say that words alone may not convey how this should look like. Hence, we would like to thank Capt. Dean Iverson for an amazing demonstration.

Levelling your boat with the pier

Once you approach the pier, turn the steering to the starboard (right) side (for docking on the port side) and shift your gear to neutral. This will move your stern towards the pier. Use the momentum to push your boat until it levels parallel along with the pier. After that, turn your controls all the way to the port side and shift to reverse. This will carry your stern towards the port.

After you get the satisfying docking result, turn off the engine and tie up your boat. It’s that simple.

Oh right, the lines…

Remember, prepare your lines but keep them inside the boat so that they don’t get stuck in the propeller. Also, while you are approaching for docking, generally, aim for the place where you are going to tie your boat.

Once your boat levels parallel to the pier, you simply have to secure the lines to tie up your boat. Don’t be hasty. Be patient and be safe!

And fenders. You should position fenders to cushion the impact. Fenders act as a buffer zone between the pier and your boat, which helps keep your boat and the pier safe.


That’s all we have on tips for docking a boat safely, really. The article alone does not do justice to understanding the docking process. We have tried our best here. However, we would highly recommend checking out Youtube or other video media websites. You will find plenty of docking videos in various situations.

One of the best ways to learn boating in South Africa is to get a skipper’s license. If you are looking to obtain one, Sail and Power SA can help you gladly. Contact us today for more information!