5 Tips For Docking A Pontoon Boat In The Wind
Docking a Pontoon boat in the wind can prove a challenging task, particularly if you consider the size and weight of the average Pontoon. However, if you live in a windy area, you shouldn’t be discouraged from taking your Pontoon out on the waters—even if the gusts seem likely to make docking more difficult. Likewise, you should feel comfortable sailing your Pontoon throughout the year regardless of the weather, as docking can be made easier by following the 5 simple tips listed below.
Before we begin, however, a brief disclaimer: while these tips will help facilitate the process of docking, there are always risks associated with sailing in harsher conditions. If the wind is so strong that docking your boat appears to be a near impossible task, we strongly recommend that you evaluate whether you have the strength and the means to sail your Pontoon in these conditions. Sailing during a hurricane, for instance, is strongly discouraged and you should set sail at your own discretion and with reasonable assurance from a local authority. By the way, if you need some advice, check out our guide on the best anchor for pontoon boats.
Tip #1: Practice As Much As Possible
On days when the wind is particularly strong, you may be tempted to avoid your Pontoon boat, and leave sailing for a more temperate day. However, the best and easiest way for you to dock your Pontoon with ease, is to practice as much as possible. This means actively choosing to sail your boat when gusts are strong, and practicing maneuvers until this becomes second nature.
In addition to practicing, you should seek the advice of a qualified professional, and ideally undergo a few lessons on your boat. Driving a Pontoon is wildly different from driving another boat, let alone another vehicle (such as a car or motorbike.) Therefore, you may consider learning by observing a more experienced sailor—who can teach you a few tricks to help make the process a little simpler.
Tip #2: Understand The Difference Between Momentum and Speed
On windy days, you should approach your slip with ample momentum. However, particularly where Pontoons are concerned, it’s important to note that momentum does not equate to speed. You should not speed up excessively as you approach your spot, but rather, find the perfect amount of energy to overcome the strong winds and currents—while gently shifting into position.
Once you have aligned your boat with your slip, you can then shift into reverse. Your reversal should be gentle, and as you move, you should be wary of the fact that your Pontoon will naturally curve— meaning that you may have to readjust a number of times. Remember, as you readjust, that your boat will be most prone to winds and currents when you lose momentum (by stopping and starting.) You should therefore make your adjustments as quickly as possible, and be wary of your surroundings.
Tip #3: Avoid Fighting the Wind or Currents
If possible, and convenient, you should try to move in line with wind—as opposed to against it. This means that, as you are reversing into your slip, if you are pushing against the wind: it may be worth you circling back and approaching from the opposite direction.
While this may seem like a waste of time, it can ultimately prove to be the most effective way of docking your Pontoon, particularly if the wind is impossibly strong—or if the currents are proving far too challenging to push against.
What’s more, by following the direction of the wind, you can actually use the gusts to your advantage— and simply allow them to glide you into position. This will reduce the effort and energy used on your part, making the whole experience simpler and much more enjoyable.
Tip #4: Consider Guiding Your Pontoon
If the weather conditions are simply too challenging for you to follow your normal docking routine, you may consider pulling your Pontoon close to the dock, and then tasking a crew member with guiding the Pontoon into the slip by means of a line. Having someone pull your boat into position may sound impractical, and potentially ineffective, but it’s often the most feasible way to dock a boat, particularly if you find yourself unable to moor it successfully on your first few attempts.
Tip #5: Learn by Example
As briefly mentioned above, taking lessons from a qualified professional will help you understand how to better dock your Pontoon during windier days. However, we also strongly recommend that you watch videos and research techniques shared by other Pontoon owners— in the interest of helping you learn by example.
While reading about various strategies can certainly prove effective, and having a professional teach you can be invaluable, simply watching someone dock their boat in harsh conditions will allow you to visualize yourself in this position and prepare yourself for these circumstances. What’s more, learning from those who are learning themselves will give you the confidence to dock your boat—and the assurance that you are not alone in facing the challenges posed by strong winds and difficult currents.
Above all, when docking your Pontoon, you should ensure the safety of those onboard, including your own personal wellbeing. For this reason, you should first practice in a smaller group, and only dock your boat with many others aboard when you feel comfortable doing so. Often, having a crew of people watching you can prove stressful and can make the whole process all the more difficult.