As any boating accident attorney at our firm can tell you, docking in a crowded marina can be a stressful experience. Unlike maneuvering out in the open water, there are many obstacles you’ll need to navigate, including other boaters. It can be challenging enough to navigate around stationary objects. Navigating around other moving vessels can raise the blood pressure of even the most seasoned boaters.
Boat owners and operators are responsible for any damages they cause, and can face steep bills if serious damage is inflicted upon docks or other boats. These costs don’t take into account the human toll that docking accidents can exact. Every year, countless individuals are injured or killed in boating accidents that could have been easily prevented.
So, how can you become a safer boater at the dock, and avoid costly accidents and repair expenses?
For one, before any captain tries to dock a boat, he or she should become familiar with maneuvering the vessel in open water, where there are fewer hazards and obstacles. Every boat handles differently. Just because you are good at handling your parents’ dinghy doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to safely dock your best friend’s motor yacht. The more confident you are at handling your vessel, the less likely you’ll be to find yourself hitting a dock or other boaters in the marina.
Unlike parking a car, when docking a boat, captains need to take into account wind conditions and currents. Even a small change in wind or current can change how you’ll have to maneuver your boat in the tight confines of the dock or marina.
Next, you should familiarize yourself with the marina or docking area. While this might not always be possible, if you plan to be renting a slip or mooring, before you go to dock, familiarize yourself with boat traffic in the area. Check to see if the slip drifts at all. While this should go without saying, before docking, make sure that you know the rules and regulations of the marina. This can help you avoid costly accidents.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the dock, have familiarized yourself with your boat’s maneuverability, and assessed all risks, it’s time to try docking. But, before you go for it, make sure to slow down. Higher speeds can lead to more serious accidents, resulting in greater damages. Make small adjustments rather than large ones as you maneuver into the dock.
Whether you have two people on board or twenty, make sure that all people aboard the vessel are aware of their docking responsibilities. Who will be responsible for handling the lines? In what order do you want to secure the boat? If there are children or inexperienced boaters on board, have you reviewed basic safety protocol (keep hands and arms inside the boat; don’t stand up until the motor is off and all lines are secured)? Docking is one of those critical moments where stray hands can get pinned between docks and the boat. If everyone understands their role, you’ll have a smoother – and safer – docking experience.
Docking can be an unnerving experience for even veteran boaters. Novice sailors should make sure that they are familiar with how a boat handles before attempting to dock. All boater should familiarize themselves with the marina before trying to dock., as well as review responsibilities with passenger and crew to ensure that everyone follows proper safety docking protocol. In general, practice makes perfect. Don’t be afraid to abort an approach if you feel that something is off. You may prevent a serious tragedy by doing so.