Newbie in need of parking help into boat slip

pup975

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Just got my new Bennington today. I'm a first time boater. We have a boat slip with a lift and it look me (with my wife's help) about 15 min to get the boat into the slip, and really only after bumping the boat into the slip which caused it to right itself straight. The water was calm and perfect. I know to go slow and with practice, I'll get better, but any tips will really help such as:
  • At what point do you idle the boat and let momentum guide you in?
  • I seem to be going in straight but eventually the stern of the boat seem to veer in one direction (mostly to the starbord side today). Is this because of the small forward or reversing that I'm doing?
  • Should I go at an angle or straight in as I'm approaching the slip?
  • If my bow is straight on but the stern is going another direction, how do I get it going the other direction to right the ship?
Thanks!
 

Stevez

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Agree about practicing where there is nothing to hit; with buoys set out if you can. Or just practice slow drifting into a certain area. Tapping the throttle a little bit when you start drifting or need a correction. Also, consider practicing on an "L" shape dock with only one side (put bumpers out while you practice!). Good luck! You will get it!
 
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Shawn

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Just got my new Bennington today. I'm a first time boater. We have a boat slip with a lift and it look me (with my wife's help) about 15 min to get the boat into the slip, and really only after bumping the boat into the slip which caused it to right itself straight. The water was calm and perfect. I know to go slow and with practice, I'll get better, but any tips will really help such as:
  • At what point do you idle the boat and let momentum guide you in?
  • I seem to be going in straight but eventually the stern of the boat seem to veer in one direction (mostly to the starbord side today). Is this because of the small forward or reversing that I'm doing?
  • Should I go at an angle or straight in as I'm approaching the slip?
  • If my bow is straight on but the stern is going another direction, how do I get it going the other direction to right the ship?
Thanks!
Practice...I had our 24SLi down. We got a 21 SPS this year and it's like I never docked before. Not sure what the problem is but it ain't gone perfect yet.

I go straight in, it blows around, I yell, we get docked. People laugh, it all works out...
 

Tomc

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Practice is king. But to comment on your questions as a new boater.

First, although the water is calm, there may be a current, causing the boat to float bow or stern off intended direction. If no current, you have not stopped the inertia of the approach.

Approach should be straight in, not an angle. Sometimes this is not possible due to wind/waves, but you need to keep as straight as possible, especially as you hit the lift.

On calm day, your approach should allow you to be “still” about 20’ out. If anything is drifting you’re not still. Then make the approach, lowest possible speed. If the stern starts drifting, slightly (very slightly) steer the engine so the stern aligns with bow. If you over-due this slight maneuver, your bow will shift outta whack.

You should not be doing small forwarding and reversing. Putting in reverse at any speed and distance while trying to getting into a lift just throws everything out of alignment. So if you really need to put in reverse, reverse it back a few (several) feet so you can realign and approach straight on again. Or, eat your pride and make a big circle to reapproach again (we’ve all done it).

Just know that getting a pontoon into a lift is more difficult than a speed boat, due to all the increased water contact and wind effects with a pontoon vs. a single hull. I do both, and the pontoon is always one or two (or more) more adjustments to get it straight than the speed boat. So being a new boater you’ve got the tougher assignment.

You’ll get the hang of it, which will allow you to do it faster and more naturally after few dockings. Don’t rush it, and just have fun with it. More time on the boat if you are out there circling.
 

kaydano

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You're not going crazy. Do a search on "prop walk". In a car, if you go forwards and backwards, over and over, without turning the wheel, you'll end up in the exact same alignment as you started. Not so in a boat.

On a boat, when you are going slow forward in a straight line, and then put it in reverse, the stern will swing to port due to prop walk. It has to do with the gyroscopic forces from the rotation of the engine. In my boat (cable steering which already has some play in it) I have to turn the wheel nearly a half turn to starboard at the same time as shifting into reverse to compensate for the prop walk if I want to maintain the same alignment (not turn) as when I was going forward.

Practice on a calm day with no wind or current until you get the feel for it. When you add in some wind, it gets 10x harder. But if you already have a feel for how prop walk affects your boat, you'll be that much further ahead of the game.
 
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kaydano

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Taking this a step further, if you hold the wheel straight, and shift from reverse to forward to reverse over and over, the boat will rotate clockwise.

For example, go straight 10 feet slow. Put it in reverse. The stern swings to port and the boat turns about 15 degrees clockwise (looking down from above). Now shift into forward. The boat goes straight (assuming you didn't move the wheel). Now shift into reverse, and the stern swings to port again. You can rotate in a complete circle like this without turning the steering wheel at all.

Once you get the feel for it, docking gets a lot easier.

We don't have a slip. I always pull up along the side of the dock. I've found if I come in fairly fast, at an angle of about about 30 degrees to the dock, with the dock on my port side, if I slam it in reverse at just the right time, and turn the wheel a half turn to port, which ADDS to the prop walk force this time, and goose the throttle a little, the boat will snuggle right up to the dock skidding sideways Captain Ron style.

I love the look I get when passengers think I'm going to run into the dock, only to have the boat slow quickly and the back end slides sideways a bit, and the boat gently kisses the dock lined up perfectly parallel to the dock.

I'm not able to do this with the dock on my starboard side because the force from the prop walk is now in the other direction and it is difficult to counteract. Maybe with more practice....
 
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KC24

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One piece of advice i was taught after all the normal advice was, I was pinned against a dock due to wind and couldn't get off. The dock master told me as he seen my struggle you have to drive faster than the wind. Basically on a windy day you need a bit more throttle to overcome wind. It really helped me. I had been boating for quite awhile when this was brought to my attention.
 

TexAgg56

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all great advise. Practice, practice, practice. you will eventually "learn" your boat and its subtle nuances of forward and reverse. The "slack" in your throttle, etc. You need to practice on a calm day but also practice in 5-7 knot winds! pontoons are sails. every little current affects your boat both underwater currents and the actual wind as it hits your fencing. Bigtime! Get a gaff pole for starters. If your prop isn't turning you have no control of your boat. it's going to drift forward for a second. then currents and windage take over! I don't drift into anything. I just know when to throw it in reverse! Timing and practice.....like the old John Wayne movie.....windage and elivation!
 

w5pfg

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On a boat, when you are going slow forward in a straight line, and then put it in reverse, the stern will swing to port due to prop walk. It has to do with the gyroscopic forces from the rotation of the engine. In my boat (cable steering which already has some play in it) I have to turn the wheel nearly a half turn to starboard at the same time as shifting into reverse to compensate for the prop walk if I want to maintain the same alignment (not turn) as when I was going forward.
I think this is very important for people to understand in addition to controlling their speed in docking situations.
 

Patrick Szuch

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The "game changer" for me, after struggling my first couple of weeks of docking, was the realization that I could steer the boat while in neutral. Before that I was always shifting into forward gear when I needed to adjust my angle to the dock, which inevitably led to overcompensation and coming in faster than intended. Now I simply line up with the dock, approach slowly and put the throttle in neutral when I am about 20-30 feet out. Then I just float in while still steering to correct any small problems. I occasionally might need to bump the throttle to forward (or even reverse) to compensate for wind/current/etc, but those are just momentary blips and I never go beyond the initial gear detent (click).
 

Shawn

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The "game changer" for me, after struggling my first couple of weeks of docking, was the realization that I could steer the boat while in neutral. Before that I was always shifting into forward gear when I needed to adjust my angle to the dock, which inevitably led to overcompensation and coming in faster than intended. Now I simply line up with the dock, approach slowly and put the throttle in neutral when I am about 20-30 feet out. Then I just float in while still steering to correct any small problems. I occasionally might need to bump the throttle to forward (or even reverse) to compensate for wind/current/etc, but those are just momentary blips and I never go beyond the initial gear detent (click).
Hmm, wish I'd of of known it worked that way previously - like 20 years previously :)
 

Vikingstaff

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Between wind and being on a bigger but shallow lake, I’d say that easily 50%+ of the time I am fighting wind, waves/water current, or both. Sometimes substantial amounts. Docking in our lift or even dockside can be a real challenge. I dread those days...
 

RodEarl74

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I second PRACTICE! These boats are large and sit low in the water and high out of it. Current and wind, slight as they may be, can throw you off line pretty easily.

Once you get the hang of it, you'll find that they are really simple to control at low speeds!
 

Bob & Sandi

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As said above, PRACTICE. What I try to do is come in at idle in gear and then neutral, a little up wind and let the wind position the boat. When partially in, and the stern gets out of position just turn the engine in that direction and then just bump reverse and then neutral to bring the stern back into position. Don't be afraid to use reverse. If I get out of shape I will back out and try again.

If needed don't be afraid to get your first mate up on the dock to help straighten out the boat. Once someone has a hand on the boat you should be able to hop out the side gate to help. You won't be the first to do this and you won't be the last.

This year will be a little more interesting for me as I will be putting a boat that is 102" wide, on a lift that is 108" wide. I will be coming up with new docking plans.

Bob
 

kaydano

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If I was pinned to the dock by wind, my choice would be to turn the wheel hard over and reverse to pull the stern end away from the dock. You'd need a second person on the bow or dock to keep the bow from scraping the dock as you backed away.
 

kaydano

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I boat alone a lot. One trick to parking parallel to a dock with the wind blowing you away is to come in bow first, and tie a line from the bow cleat on the side you want to dock on to a dock cleat. Tie off leaving a couple feet between the dock and your boat, but tie off close enough so you can climb onto the dock. Then bring a 25 foot line tied to the stern cleat on the same side of the boat with you ashore. While standing on the dock, pull the stern end of the boat to the dock with the second line.
 

SEMPERFI8387

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If it’s super windy we come in like kaydano says, but she ties off front (two of us) then I put in idle reverse and swing stern into dock using the front line as my pivot. Works great every time.
 
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