By: Captain Bill Jennings
I've been there – you've been there – every boater has been there.
As you approach a dock, you notice that a light wind is preventing you from holding your planned approach angle. The smooth landing that you figured on is starting to go sideways. Lets see -- if I add a little more throttle, this thing should straighten out. After all, no minor misjudgment is going to prevent me from executing a perfect docking. Especially with all those people watching. Okay, that throttle adjustment corrected things slightly, but now I'm getting too close too fast. Of course the fenders will soften any minor hit and --- oops --- we forgot to put them out.
It is at this point when that voice in your head will say: “You can save this thing, so don't back away now." You begin to feel all those eyes glued to your every move. You are thinking, “Steer the other way. Don't let it hit the dock.” You can recall the sound a boat gunnel makes when it whacks a dock. It is a wicked 'super crunch,' that seems to be saying, "abandon ship!"
Does that big guy on the dock want to help, or is he just getting closer to get a better view of the unfolding predicament? It is at this point when one of your bow passengers decides to stand straight up and throw a line to the big guy. The well meaning bystander grabs your line on the second attempt and immediately gives it a huge yank. There goes any hope of making a smooth landing. Then another passenger gets up and wants to jump over to the dock but fortunately thinks better of such a sacrificial act. Now you must resort to plan B. Take the hit, tie up quickly and slink away with a confident, “that's what I meant to do” look on your face.
This won't be the last time this happens. But you can avoid indoctrination into the Boating Hall of Shame very easily. Simply remember that 'you can always go around'. Backing away and making a new and fresh approach is always better than attempting to force a correction. Just 'go around' any time you feel unsure of your success as you approach a dock.