Docking Etiquette for Every Boater

Docking Etiquette for Every Boater

Pursuit Boats Sport S 428 Center Console Boat with quad Yamaha Engines cruises in the Bahamas.

Don’t be a dock the next time you arrive to launch, tie up or load your boat onto the trailer! Check out our tips to ensure a hassle-free docking experience that will impress your crew and fellow boaters alike!



We can all agree that getting out on the water in a Pursuit boat is one of the best ways to spend your time and money.

Pursuit boats offer a perfect mix of features, build qualities and finishes that are designed to delight their owners and guests every single time. Whether you’re going fishing or cruising, or simply socializing at the sandbar, Pursuit Boats will get you there and back in complete comfort, safety and style.

At the start and end of the day, every boat has to leave or return to a dock. While some of us are fortunate enough to have a private dock, many of us will be utilizing a marina berth or a dock at a boat ramp. Whatever your personal scenario may be, docking can be a stressful, frustrating, embarrassing or - at worst - costly affair if you’re not adequately prepared for what to expect. 

In today’s guide, we’re going to give you our top docking etiquette tips to help you have a fun, smooth and easy experience at the dock.


Why does docking etiquette matter?

According to our surveys, most Pursuit Boats owners make use of private docks and, to a lesser extent, marina berths.

Marinas in particular can be super busy spaces with many people coming and going and generally spending time around their boats. Tensions can quickly get out of hand when a captain is seen to be behaving in a way that is inconsiderate of those around him/her.

Therefore, docking etiquette matters because we want you to have fun while also being considerate of your fellow boaters. There’s one golden rule that if you get it right, will keep your nose clean and keep your dignity intact: Preparation!


Preparation is the key!

Like so many other aspects of boating, the best way to ensure a smooth, courteous and impressive experience at the dock is to properly prepare your boat and your crew for it beforehand.

Here’s where some preparation particularly far in advance can really bear fruit. In general, the trick is to be ready to dock long before you physically arrive at the dock or the marina. For less experienced crews, you may want to consider beginning the preparation before you even go out on the water together.

Getting that part right requires giving your crew a few solid pointers about what to expect.


Brief your crew in advance

Good docking etiquette begins with you as the skipper discussing the docking process with your crew far ahead of your arrival at the dock. Explain what they can expect from the physical layout of the dock, and highlight any potentially known hazards around it. These can range from typically high wind conditions to water/river currents, obstacles in the water, poorly moored neighboring boats, or even wildlife such as alligators that everyone needs to watch out for.


You get a job! You get a job! Everyone gets a job!

The next step in ensuring a smooth and courteous docking experience is to assign jobs to your crew long before you arrive at the dock. Naturally, your crew size and boat size will vary, but the principles remain the same.

The idea here is to make sure that everyone on board understands what to do when you arrive at the dock or ramp, and how to do that task. Obviously, you want to ensure that competent and physically capable people are appointed. For example, it’s no use asking a toddler to use the boat hook. This leads us to the next point:


Get hooked on docking

We always recommend that you assign someone to handle the boat hook. This person will be responsible for grabbing the nearest cleat on the dock and pulling the boat towards it as you arrive at the dock. Even though many modern boats benefit from joystick control, this task is still necessary for older boats and also benefits more sophisticated boats simply for practical and safety reasons. 

When departing the dock, the person handling the boat hook will also assist with pushing the boat clear and away from the dock.


Roping in the best talent

Next, appoint someone to take responsibility for the ropes/lines. If you’re departing the dock, this person will need to cast off - or untie - the lines holding the boat to the dock and, if they’re joining you on the boat that day, they’ll need to time the final cast-off so that they’re still able to leap aboard before the boat is too far from the dock. 

For boats the size of those in the Pursuit Boats range, you would likely make use of two lines: A bow springer line, and a stern line.

The recommended procedure is to cast off the stern line first, followed by the bow line. When returning to the dock, tie the bow first and then the stern.

There’s another key task here and that is to prepare your ropes in advance. Buy high-quality nautical lines and cut them to the required length. Burn off any loose/frayed pieces and pre-tie any knots you might require.

Cheap rope is generally inferior in quality and strength and can’t be trusted to hold your boat safely in place, so this is an area we highly recommend that you really invest some money into.


Fend off any problems

Before arriving at the dock, make sure that your fenders are tied in place and ready to go. 

And while fenders are vital, it’s also not necessary to overdo it. For most center console and dual console boats, you shouldn’t need more than a handful on each side. Few things irritate fellow boaters more than a captain hogging a ramp or dock while they tie on too many fenders. 

And when you depart from the dock, be sure to remove your fenders. Even if you just flip them back over the gunwale so that they hang inboard, that’s better than leaving them dangling outboard. Only amateurs leave their fenders flying back and forth in the spray while underway!


Don’t be a hog

A good captain arrives at the dock with a crew who is fully prepared and briefed on what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. 

When launching your boat, ensure that it’s packed with all of your belongings and other items before you cast off. There are few things that irritate other boaters more than a boat sitting there for ages while the crew slowly packs their belongings on board.

Be prepared so that you can be safe and have fun.


Woke to wakes

No docking etiquette guide would be complete without a quick mention of boat wakes around the marina or dock. 

Every dock has rules relating to speed, usually in the form of a ‘No Wake’ rule. This ensures that transiting boats move through slowly and unobtrusively, ensuring that boats that are already berthed/tied up are saved from being needlessly and violently bumped around all day long. 

Crucially, lower speeds also help ensure maximum safety for everyone in the vicinity. The slower you move through the water in a crowded space, the less the chance of an accident. And accidents happen fast.


The Pursuit of Perfection

Pursuit Boats continue to be the first choice of discerning boaters across America. With layouts, finishes and facilities perfect for almost any activity on the water, Pursuit boats offer an irresistible package suitable for every need.

To find out all about our range and our exciting new models, keep an eye on our website or simply contact us. We’d love to chat with you.