Depart from & Return to Dock and/or Slip


  • Practice and develop the boathandling skills of leaving and returning to a dock and/or slip.

Setting Up the Drill:

  • Equipment: powerboats rigged with bow, stern and spring lines, and fenders
  • For beginning operators, use a dockside that aligns with the wind or current (whichever is stronger).
  • For sufficiently advanced operators, use a dockside that has a crosswind or crosscurrent (whichever is stronger).

Conducting the Drill:

  • Each boat leaves from the dock by backing away, and then circles to make an approach at minimum control speed, and brings the boat alongside the dock.
  • Operators practice leaving and returning from both sides of the dock.

Teaching Tips:

  • Repeat the drill until all operators can successfully leave and return to the dock and/or slip.
  • This drill is usually used for operators with some experience.
  • For first-time operators without a trainer onboard, the Rubber Docking Drill should be used until the operators have developed their skills enough to avoid hitting the dock hard.

Common Errors:

  • When departing, turning the engine (or rudder) in the wrong direction when backing away from the dock or slip.
  • When docking, making approach at a speed greater than minimum control speed.
  • When docking, turning the engine (or rudder) in the wrong direction when reversing to bring the boat parallel to the dock.


  • Safe Powerboating Handling On-Water Skill Standards 2.1, 2.2, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3 and their rubrics
  • Start Powerboating Right! textbook pp. 50, 51, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58 & 59 (rudder steering), 61 & 62 (rudder steering)