The Simplest Yet Biggest Mistake When Docking

Pulling the boat out of the slip is regarded as the most stressful part of sailing, so much so that t-shirts along the lines of “sorry for what I said when I was docking the boat” have been printed and sold with success. The club sees dozens of dockings a day and we’re here to give you the biggest and simplest tip to remove a lot of the stress from docking.

“Gear then Steer”, “Gear then Steer”, “Gear then Steer”.

The biggest mistake we see from those pulling out of the slip is turning the wheel while the boat is still going backwards. They have started backing out of the slip like normal, the bow is coming around and pointing towards the fairway nicely, then the impulse to straighten out the wheel (or even turn it the other direction) kicks in. The boat is still going backwards so the input on the wheel to straighten out just negated all of the turn created in the initial back out. The boat is now sideways to the fairway and the skipper is faced with few good options.

If the skipper had geared and then steered, they would have stopped the backwards motion by applying forward throttle and the input on the helm would have been fine since the boat would now be moving forward. Think about when you back out of a parking spot in your car as you would never straighten out or turn the opposite direction while still in reverse.

A seasoned skipper will combine the gear and steer law into one seamless movement, but beginners should remind themselves to gear and then steer. First place the boat in forward gear and once the boat has stopped moving backwards, turn the wheel to straighten out and exit the fairway. Mastering this very simple skill will prevent you from having to apologies to your crew and certainly avoid wearing a silly t-shirt.

For any powerboat operators reading this, completely disregard as operating a powerboat follows the law of “gear then steer” since the propulsion and rudder are combined.

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