I know it can be intimidating, your mind might be racing... the wind is a factor, the waves are a factor, the size of the slip comes into play. Then you stop and remember what you've practiced, you can do this! The task of backing your boat into a slip can definitely be nerve-wracking and initially very daunting, but when you weigh the benefits, it can be a great option.
First, what is a boat slip? A boat slip is more like a single parking space for your boat. They are not as open as boat docks are and they are enclosed on three sides, so there's only one way in and one way out.
Pulling your boat head first into a slip works just fine, but backing your boat into a slip is the most beneficial.
- Backing in stern first allows easier boarding for passengers and more convenience when loading and unloading items.
- When backing your boat into a slip, you avoid having to drag the cables over the rails or across your boat because the power and water connections are usually at or near the transom. This is also true when fueling your vessel.
- Having your stern facing the dock or shore protects your boat from the wake created by passing boats. The bow facing outward, disperses the waves or wake, minimizing the impact on the boat. If the boat is pulled in bow first, the wave would hit the stern (which is typically flat). The stern would absorb the force and cause the boat to potentially hit the dock and scratch the vessel.
Maneuvering your boat stern first into a slip takes some practice. Remember to factor in these key elements – the force and direction of both the current and wind, and the neutral drift. If possible, pick a time of day with light wind and minimal current.
Drive your boat up to the slip on the starboard side. Pull boat up SLOWLY until the stern is lined up with the starboard finger of the slip. Turn wheel to port side. Then shift from drive to reverse, until your boat starts moving backward, then shift boat back to neutral. When your boat is aligned with the slip, put your boat quickly in and out of drive to halt the backward motion. Make sure your fenders are out in case your boat comes in contact with the dock and have your boat lines ready to tie off onto the cleats.
Check out this VIDEO which provides useful and detailed instructions on how to back your boat into a slip.
Enjoy your day on the water!
(Remember to inspect your boat lines and dock ties and replace as needed. Boat lines and dock ties weather and weaken over time.)