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How to dock a single shaftdrive boat: Three simple methods explained

Our resident boating instructor Jon Mendez shows how to use prop walk to help dock a single shaftdrive boat.

The launch in this video has a right-handed prop, which pushes the stern to port when going astern, so all things being equal, mooring port side to is going to be easier.

That’s because when you use astern to slow the boat as you approach the berth, it will naturally pull the stern in towards the dock.

The speed and angle of your approach will depend on what the wind and tide are doing. If you are docking into the elements you will need to use a moderate angle and a little bit more speed before using astern to stop the forward movement and kick the stern in.

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If you are docking with the elements you will need to use a slightly steeper angle of approach but a slower speed then slightly more astern to stop and drag the stern to port on the prop walk.

The same theory applies to a boat with a left-handed prop, except your preferred berthing will now be starboard side to.

It is perfectly possible to berth a right-handed prop boat starboard side to or vice versa if the wind and tide are strong enough to make this an easier option, you just need to go as slowly as possible and use a much shallower angle of approach so when you go into astern to slow the boat it doesn’t move the stern too far away from the dock.

You should aim to end up with the boat almost alongside but needing a touch of ahead with full port rudder to bring it past parallel (slightly bow out) then use a last click of astern that pulls the stern out, the bow in, and stops you – all in one go.

Having used prop walk to get your single shaftdrive boat into a berth, you now need to work out how to leave the berth while overcoming it. Leaving in astern will be tricky as the prop will want to push the stern back towards the dock, so ahead is usually easier.

In ahead, the prop will still want to turn the bow towards the dock but not as quickly. The key is to get the bow as far away from the pontoon as possible and generate some forward motion to gain steerage before the prop walk has a chance to push the bow back in.

There are several ways to achieve this. I am not a great fan of pushing the bow out by hand but there are occasions on a small boat when this is the simplest option.

I call this the “manual bow thruster” and it is best done from the boat rather than the dock, so use a foot or a boat hook to steadily push away from the pontoon.

Another option is to use a trick I’ve seen on inland waterways, which involves lifting the stern fender out and pulling on the stern line. This helps force the bow out and allows you to motor away while keeping an eye on the stern.

The last method is to use a stern spring. Ensure the stern is well fendered then take the stern line forward and loop it round a dockside cleat then back to the stern cleat.

Now engage astern against this spring and force the bow out. When you’re happy with the angle, go into neutral, slip the spring line and motor away, being mindful of the stern and not turning too early.

Our How To video series is brought to you in association with GJW Direct.

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