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#QuickTips - The "Sterile Cockpit" Isn't What You Think, But You Should Still Have One

By: Captain Bill Jennings

Calling for a "sterile cockpit" when docking will make your life a lot easier.

I don't know if you have noticed this, but every time you approach a dock to park your boat your passengers suddenly become overly active.

First someone asks if they can help, then another person stands up, and then conversations with questions hit an all time high. Such actions introduce more confusion than you need when you are trying to line up the perfect approach to a dock.

Such a pre-docking verbal outbreak could just be the result of nervous passengers who have seen you dock before, but in order for you to stay focused when it counts, try taking a page from the aircraft captain's handbook. At a certain point on an air approach to an airport, it is quite common for a pilot to call for a "sterile cockpit." This is simply an order to those around him to cease from all unnecessary conversation.

A boating equivalent would be for the driver to say to all his passengers: "Please stay seated until the boat is completely stopped at the dock. If I need any assistance, or have any questions, I will ask."

If you see someone standing on the dock, you might also remind your crew not to pass them a tie line before you ask them to. We all know that when that helpful person on the dock gets your line in hand, the first thing they will do is pull on it very hard, and so doing, completely disrupting your approach.

I believe you will find that if you make these two simple requests to your passengers before docking, your chances of a perfect landing will be greatly improved.

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