How to Dock Your Fishing Boat Alongside a Jetty/pier

By: James Fletcher

Nothing scares recreational and amateur boaters more than trying to drive their boat up parallel alongside a structure such as a jetty or Pier. Have you ever driven your boat too hard into a pier? If so, below are some tips that will help prevent damage to your vessel and to your ego.

The points below are useful for boaters with an outboard engine or stern drive inboard engines.

Firstly, drive your boat slow. When approaching any object on the water you should approach at the slowest speed in which your boat can still manoeuvre. If you go too slow the controls may not work, so have a few goes to find what the lowest speed your boat can do whilst still maintaining control. The slower you go the more time you will have to react to any situation that may arise so this point is vital.

Make sure everyone on board is prepared and knows what side you will be coming in on. Have ropes secured ready to tie your boat up but make sure these lines are kept onboard whilst the boat is travelling in the water so they don't get tangled around the propeller. The tides, wind and other boat users will all effect your approach pattern so be sure to assess your options and choose the best way to proceed. You need to avoid other boat users and try to go into the wind or the current (whichever force is greater). If your boat is large and you have fenders, it is time to get them into place.

You should approach the pier at roughly a 45 degree angle. Try to maintain your speed for at least 100 feet before you reach the pier. Once you get to around two boat lengths from the pier it is time to jump into action.

Turn the controls away from the pier. This will cause the boats back end to swing in towards the pier. The initial turn does not need to be violent as even a small turn will get the back of the boat swinging in.

Once the above has started happening switch the engine into neutral and let the boats momentum push the boat alongside the pier.

Whilst you are slowly drifting in, turn the motor in so the propeller faces the pier (i.e. turn the wheel towards the Pier). This will feel back to front as to what you should be doing but it will have no impact on the direction of the boat as the engine is in neutral.

Once you are within reaching distance of the pier, switch the engine to reverse and give the engine a little throttle. If done correctly and the motors propeller is facing the pier, the reverse thrust will push in the back end of the boat to the pier. Once again, the throttle does not need to be violent. Just give the engines a short burst and then put back into neutral and the momentum should push the back end in alongside the pier.

If done correctly the entire boat should now be parallel with the pier. Make sure to tie up the boat immediately to prevent the boat drifting off again. The whole process is now complete.

The above process can be a little daunting at first although a little practice goes a long way. Try practicing against a forgiving object such as a pier with rubber guards alongside or put fenders down to lessen any impact. With a little practice you are sure to become confident with this manoeuvre.

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