Docking a vessel should be done ideally into the wind or current, whichever is stronger, if they are present. The draft of the vessel must be known to the operator, as well as any water hazards that may like in the vessels path on its approach to the securing area. These can be known by consulting charts or local knowledge.

The dock lines should be at the ready before making contact with the dock, and visually confirm that the intended docking area is free of obstructions. Also that the cleats, rails, rings or posts are in good condition to secure the vessel.

Fenders are usually placed to protect the hull and dock once the vessel is secured. The reason being that these air-filled fenders usually act as “balloons” which cause the vessel to “bounce” back away from the dock if the approach speed is not calculated to perfection. Again, an operator should know the vessel best and what works.

Rafting up to other vessels is acceptable, as long as precautions are taken to protect the other vessel from damage while contact is made. The operator of the first vessel at the dock has the right to refuse another vessels raft-up alongside of his vessel if he feels that it causes an unsafe situation. Nautical etiquette and courtesy usually prevails in most marine communities.

Undocking is usually done in reverse order: the vessel is put into reverse propulsion and “backs-out” stern first at roughly 30-50 degree angle until a vessels beam width away from the dock, brought parallel, stopped and slowly put into forward gear until the stern clears the dock where it can be steered in the intended direction. A vessel should not normally undock by going forward from its securing area as its stern will hit and drag along the dock, causing damage to both the vessel and the dock and possibly causing injury.

Running lights should be on when leaving a dock from sunset to sunrise or at any time during restricted visibility. Sounds and signals should also be utilized and comply with regulations.