“Rubber” Docking


  • Practice and develop the boat handling skills of leaving and returning to a dock on both sides of a boat.

Setting Up the Drill:

  • Equipment: 4 to 6 buoys with a small weight attached to each rode about 3 feet below the buoy.
  • Trainer sets closely spaced buoys in a row to simulate a dock. Buoys should be no further apart than 1/3 boat length.
  • For beginning operators, align the buoys with the wind or current (whichever is stronger).
  • For sufficiently advanced operators, align the buoys crosswind or crosscurrent (whichever is stronger).

Conducting the Drill:

  • Operators practice leaving and returning to the “rubber” dock from both sides of the line of buoys.

Teaching Tips:

  • Make operator aware of the risk of entangling the propeller with the rode.
  • This drill is also used if a dock or slip is not available, or if the wind/current conditions prevents docking practice with an actual dock.
  • 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 the 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, 54, 55, 58 & 62 (rudder steering)