Use the Magic of an “Aim Point” to Dock Your Sailboat

Captain John from shares this essential docking tip.

Two half-million dollar sport-fishing boats are tied up to a marina pier. And the dockmaster has just enough space to fit your small sailboat in between. Add wind and current to the mix and you have a real challenge ahead of you! How can you dock your boat smoother and easier? Discover this little-known secret used by master boat handlers worldwide.

Make more accurate approaches when you choose an “aim point” with any pier approach. Estimate a distance about 1/3 of the available space aft of the forward moored boat (see illustration below).

That way, when your bow arrives at the aim point, you can pivot your boat into her assigned space with a spring line. Realize this aim point will be approximate.

Your main objective will be to allow the bow to clear the boat forward and to work your stern into the pier so that it clears the boat aft. Note in the illustration that an aim point (AP) has been chosen about 1/3 of the total space available aft of the stern of the forward moored boat.

How to Keep Lined-Up with Your Aim Point

We have found a “natural range” to help guide us in to the aim point. Note how the top of the piling and prominent peak (circled in red) line up with the aim point.

As long as these stay in line (also called “in range” or “in transit”), we know that we can make a pinpoint landing at our chosen aim order cialis point.

You can use any two objects–like the side of a building and tank, tower and spire, or prominent tree and piling. This makes your approach easier and works in all conditions of wind or current.

Practice for “Bulls-eye” Landings”

Practice aim point approaches first in a non confined area. Find a pier with plenty of room. If possible, use a seawall or pier with no other boats present. Choose a weekday if possible for less congestion and a more relaxed environment.

Make practice approaches port-side-to and starboard-side-to. Note in the illustration the we have chosen a port-side-to approach. If your boat has a right-handed prop, your stern will “walk” to the left in reverse propulsion. Choose a port-side-to approach if practicable.

On the other hand, if your sailboat has a left-handed prop, your stern will “walk” to the right in reverse propulsion. Choose a starboard-side-to approach if practicable.

If wind or current are not an issue, make your approach based on your boat’s prop-walk as described above. If wind or current are present, base your approach side on the stronger of the two elements. Turn so that your bow faces more into the stronger element. This gives you the most control on any approach. (See next chapters in eBook for more on docking approaches and how to use spring lines in wind or current).


Use these easy docking tips to put you in control in tight quarters. Gain the confidence you need for smoother, easier dockings–wherever in the world you choose to sail or cruise!

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