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Top 4 Boating Maneuvers You Need to Master

Top 4 Boating Maneuvers You Need to Master

If you’re a new boat owner or an experienced captain looking to refresh your skills, there are several boating maneuvers you’ll want to know when you’re out on the water. Whether you’re steering a sailboat or powerboat, it can take some adjustments to ensure everything goes smoothly. Here are Boatline’s top four boating maneuvers you need to master.

1. Undocking

One of the first things you’ll learn when maneuvering your boat is undocking. As basic as it may seem, there are a few things you need to remember when you leave the dock.

  • When you’re ready to set out on your boat, loosen the dock lines from the cleats on the dock and secure the lines.
  • Pay attention to the wind and current so you don’t drift into other boats or objects nearby.
  • Pull in your fenders.
  • When you’re in the clear and away from the dock and other boats, shift forward and remain in idle to slowly create more distance.
  • Be careful of your bow and stern pivoting as you undock.

2. Docking

Once you’ve undocked and spent a relaxing day on the water, obviously you’ll have to return to shore and dock your boat.

  • Pay attention to the wind and current as you get close to the dock so that you approach gradually; you don’t want to hit anything.
  • Have your dock lines ready and fenders lowered to protect yourself if there’s a collision.
  • Your bow should be aligned with the middle of the dock as you use your momentum to ease your way in.
  • As you close in, the bow will swing near the dock. You can initiate this by giving some throttle, but again, be careful.
  • Straighten things out when you’re close to the dock and have someone secure the boat with dock lines.
  • Stop your boat, or put it in reverse to ensure it doesn’t keep moving forward.

3. Backing Into a Slip

This is one of the basics for docking whenever you use a slipway to retrieve your boat. While for the inexperienced it may be challenging, you can learn to back into a slip by carefully following each of these steps and giving it some practice.

  • Give yourself some distance between the boat and slip before you back in.
  • Position your boat so that its side, either port or starboard, is facing the slip. This depends on where the slip is and how you’re approaching it.
  • Shift to neutral and turn your boat so that the transom is backing into the slip.
  • Your boat will need to idle as it turns into position to align the transom with the slip. You may need to give the boat a little throttle to reposition.
  • Switch to reverse and give the boat a little power to proceed towards the slip. Be careful as you do this to move slowly.
  • When you’re aligned and level with the slip, stop the boat, and have someone secure it with dock lines.


4. Back and Fill

Also known as a pivot turn, back and fill is a steering skill you need to learn to turn your boat around in a tight space, usually around a 180-degree angle. The direction you turn your boat depends on if you have a lefthand or righthand screw (or propeller), which indicates how your propeller spins and how your boat will move. Here’s how the back and fill will go, step by step:

  • Maintain an idle speed.
  • Put the rudder to port (left) if you have a left-hand screw or starboard (right) if you have a right-hand screw. Keep it in this position for the duration of the maneuver.
  • As the bow turns, shift to reverse. The stern will move to the opposite direction you started.
  • Keep your movement steady and shift forward.
  • You will pivot and the bow will turn at the same momentum.
  • Shift to reverse and complete the turn.


Once you get the hang of these maneuvers, you’ll have more confidence handling your boat when you’re on the water. Just remember to keep practicing, have patience, and take things slowly. And be sure to check out a large selection of new and used boats on the marketplace on!


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Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller

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