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10 Simple Rules for Better Docking

Follow our 10-step program to take the chaos out of docking.
Boating Safety

Aye, Aye, Captain
More problems are caused when docking beside “that guy” — yeah, the one over there on the dock offering you advice and distracting you from the task at hand. Although he thinks he’s helping, he’s really not. There is only one person solely responsible for your vessel and crew safety: you. So act like it.

Even the most experienced captains and crews have a little pre-docking briefing. Managing the crew and its assigned tasks prior to and during docking is one of the most important (and simplest) things to get a handle on. Go over each crew member’s responsibility precisely — and well in advance of docking maneuvers. Also decide who should remain seated and out of the way until the lines are secure.

Make sure that everyone is aware of your expectations through every stage of docking. For example, I’ll determine who I want handling the bow, stern and spring lines, as well as who is responsible for deploying fenders or fending off from the dock, piling or seawall. It’s also important to let them know in what order you want the boat secured.

Lastly, be sure to always stress safety first: no hands between bulkheads, seawalls and pilings, and make sure that mooring lines aren’t wrapped around hands, legs or feet.

So, here it is: Never approach the dock faster than you are willing to hit it. Always remember that there’s room for only one captain on your vessel, regardless of size. And when in doubt, always refer to rule No. 2.

Now go boating, and look forward to coming back to the dock instead of dreading it!

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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit

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