A good captain will brief their crew before leaving the dock on matters of safety, crew positions, helping the captain with specific needs, etc. One topic they may cover is returning to the dock and tasking a crew member with securing the fenders, making the dock lines accessible and perhaps how to step off the boat to secure those dock lines. One thing a good captain would not say is to stand on the bow when coming back to the dock. Why’s that? Many reasons but the three we’ll point out today have to do with safety, visibility, and being in the proper position to secure dock lines.

First, let’s discuss safety. The bow is the narrowest and most forward part of the boat and therefore would be the most unbalanced footing for someone that is standing. If the boat were to make a sharp turn (this is likely while docking) or even worse hit the dock at significant speed, it’s very likely the crewmember standing on the bow would be ejected from the boat and get injured.

The next reason for not having someone on the bow is to maintain good visibility for the captain. It goes without saying that it’s a lot easier for the skipper to see their bow, the slip, and their surroundings without someone in front of them. This also goes for crew members standing up in the cockpit while docking, the safest and best place for crew while docking is to be seated in the cockpit.

Last and certainly not least, there is no good purpose for a crew member to be on the bow with dock lines in hand. As you know and was pointed out above, the bow is the narrowest part of the boat and therefore would be the largest gap between the boat and dock once in the slip. A crew member standing on the bow of the boat is out of position for stepping off the boat to secure the lines. Instead, a crew member tasked with handling the dock lines should run the bow line as far aft as possible so they can easily and safely step off the boat at the widest part to secure lines.

Reasons for having a crew member on the bow are limited and certainly so while docking. Next time you are out perhaps work this into your safety briefing before leaving the dock or ahead of your return.