recreational boat at commercial dock

How Should Recreational Boaters Use Commercial Docks?

Just like some people have stress when parking a car, others have stress when docking a boat. Not docking properly can not only damage your boat but also the commercial dock or, God forbid, others’ boats. How should recreational boaters use commercial docks? If you are a new boat owner or are considering purchasing a boat and plan on using a commercial dock, here are some tips on pulling in and out. 

Motor Boat Docking:

  1. When you are approaching the dock utilize your VHF radio to obtain mooring directions from the dockmaster. This may not always be possible in small commercial docks.
  2. You must have some understanding of how the wind can affect your boat’s position because it can suddenly push you with great force towards the dock. You must, therefore, get some idea about the wind intensity and direction. Essentially, you have to adjust your maneuvering. Remember, unlike a car, boaters have to use the reverse throttle instead of braking. This stopping distance will also vary on the load, speed, current, and wind conditions.
  3. In general, always approach the dock against the current. Your approach should be coming in at an angle and ending parallel to the dock. When possible, allow the current or the wind to gently carry your boat to the dock. If you need to alter position, briefly shift into gear. This will provide you with greater control of the boat’s direction and motion.
  4. If you anticipate difficult docking, you must ensure that your piloting controls and/or thruster are ready to be used gently. Try testing tight, low-speed maneuvering on the open water before entering the marina.
  5. Always go slow, as this allows you better control of the boat. Even if you nudge the dock at a slow speed, with your fenders in the right places, you should be able to stay away from damaging your boat.
  6. If for any reason the first approach fails, you should have an alternate plan.
  7. Every time you have people on your boat, the onus is on you to educate them on boat safety. During docking it is very easy to get arms and legs pinched between the dock and the boat; hence, all individuals on the boat should be told to take a seat and keep their extremities inside the boat during docking. If the boat comes in faster than planned at the dock, it is recommended that you use the fenders and not the arms of your passengers.
  8. Finally, you must have rules for deboarding the boat. All passengers, but especially inexperienced ones, should remain on the boat until docking is complete and the boat has been secured. Leaping out of the boat before it is secured can cause the boat to suddenly change direction, leading to missed docking and potential injuries.

So, how should recreational boaters use commercial docks? While most docking is straightforward, it is always recommended that you have a docking plan and that you have communicated the details, however brief, to your passengers. In addition, if you feel that you may require assistance, delegate the tasks to the passengers. Assign each specific task to a specific person. For example, who will handle the line and in what order. Finally, speak up so that all your crew and passengers can hear your orders clearly. 

After docking

  1. Once the boat is docked, use the stern bow and spring lines to secure the boat to the dock. Even though most recreational boats do not use anchors, they can be useful in areas of choppy waters, bad weather, or if you have engine failure. For example, if the weather is poor and you do not want the boat to drift towards an obstacle or a hazard, an anchor can prove useful. If you have your own dock and plan to use it for recreational water activities, like swimming, or if you plan to stay overnight on your vessel, an anchor is recommended. There are many types of anchors, and it is best to speak with a boating expert before buying an anchor.
  2. Utilize fenders to prevent the boat from getting damaged or scratched. Another option is to use snubbers.
  3. Permit the boat engine to cool down for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Next, pump the holding tank and add tank treatment for good maintenance.
  5. Before you depart, ensure that all electronic gear is off, including the clocks, alarms, VHF, electronic lights, and stereo. You surely do not want a dead battery the next time you plan on a boat trip.
  6. If there is a power cable from the shore, connect it to the boat, but first ensure it is above water and has enough slack that will permit the boat to move while in the slip. Do not forget to turn on your battery charger.
  7. Remember to fill, date, and sign the logbook.
  8. Use fresh water to flush out the outward motors.
  9. Shut any ball valves or open thru hull seacocks.
  10. Lastly, do a final scan to ensure that all the sails are properly furled and the hatches are closed. if your boat is a sailing vessel, make sure that the genoa/jib is completely furled with at least two complete sheet wraps.


How should recreational boaters use commercial docks? By going through these steps each time you dock the boat, not only will it ensure that you dock the boat safely, but it will ensure the safety of everyone on board after spending time on the water. Operating a boat requires some diligence and by getting good at docking, you will also prevent damage to your prized possession. If this is your first boat and you have never docked a boat, ask someone with experience to show you how it is done and watch others do the docking. The more experience you gain, the less risk of damage to your boat or the dock. 

Call AccuDock at 954-785-7557 for more information about our boat docks.

AccuDock is a global leader in the design and manufacturing of Floating Docks
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