Tips & Tricks

How to Dock a Personal Watercraft (PWC)

How to Dock a Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Dock Like a PRO. 

Even if you keep your PWC on a trailer, your day is likely to begin and end at a dock. Knowing how to successfully approach a dock will make you look like a pro and help avoid damage to your PWC and injury to you and your passenger. Here's how to dock a PWC the right way...

7 Steps for Docking a PWC

1. Study the situation, and approach into the wind or current if possible

2. Be aware of other nearby boat traffic

3. Think about where you'll tie up to secure your dock line

4. Tell any passengers to sit tight and have dock lines ready

5. Approach the dock slowly - come in at idle

6. Use short blips of throttle to help with steering control

7. If applicable to your craft, use attached cleats, or loop the line around the base of your handlebars

Awareness of the Wind & Current. 

Because a PWC does not have a rudder and relies on thrust from the jet pump to steer, its course is quickly influenced by momentum, wind and current as soon as you let off the throttle. Ideally you'll want to approach into wind or current if possible, as you'll have more control. 

At a public dock, study the flow of boat traffic, look for other boats that may be coming into or pulling out of the dock and consider where you'll tie up. You'll want to land at a spot on the dock near a cleat to secure your dock line.

If you have an inexperienced passenger aboard, instruct them to sit tight and not reach out with a leg or an arm to try and stop the momentum of the PWC which could lead to injury. If possible have your dock lines ready before approaching the dock. If you have a passenger let them hold the lines. 

Approaching the dock with too much speed always leads to trouble - you could bang hard into the dock or need to use a lot of reverse thrust to reduce your speed which can make it hard to control the PWC. You want to come in at idle and use short blips of throttle if you need some steering control. Have an escape route in mind if you need to abort the approach, such as circling hard to the left or right and heading away from the dock so you can re-group and start over. 

Docking with No Wind.

If there’s little or no wind or current, take the following steps:

  1. Approach the dock at a 20-degree angle.
  2. When you are about two PWC lengths away from the dock, steer away from the dock and give the throttle a blip to push the stern around towards the dock.
  3. Then if necessary, shift to reverse and use a quick blip of throttle to slow your forward momentum.
  4. With practice you’ll be able to stop right next to the dock.

Use this same technique if you are heading into wind blowing (or current flowing) along the length of the dock.

How to Dock a Personal Watercraft

Wind Off the Dock.

If the wind is blowing off the dock, take the following approach:

  1. Increase the angle of approach to about 35 to 45 degrees.
  2. In this situation, you’ll need a little more power to approach the dock.
  3. When you are about a half-boat length from the dock, turn sharply away from the dock and apply a blip of power to bring the stern of the craft around until you are parallel with the dock.
  4. Be ready to toss a line to someone on the dock, or to grab a cleat on the dock, to keep the craft from drifting away.

Wind from the Stern.

If the wind or current is coming from behind you, you should:

  1. Approach the dock at a more shallow angle, about 10 to 15 degrees.
  2. Shift intermittently to neutral or reverse to slow your speed as required.
  3. When you are about two lengths away from the dock, steer away from the dock, then shift into reverse and steer towards the dock.
  4. This will kick the stern towards the dock, with reverse thrust holding it in place.

Wind to the Dock.

If wind or current is moving perpendicular toward the dock, be sure to:

  1. Approach at a shallow angle, but make your turn within four of five craft lengths from the dock.
  2. Then allow the current or wind to push you toward the dock.
  3. Shift to neutral if possible but keep the engine running so you’ve got power if you need to adjust your angle. 

Tying-Up a PWC.

Some PWCs have a small cleat amidships, or an eye on the console, intended to secure a dock line. Many have neither, and in that case, it’s OK to loop the line around the base of the handlebars or rear seat grab handle.

It's recommended to use 2 x dock ties as with just one dock line your craft may swing out away from the dock. You can secure the craft against the dock by attaching a second line to the ski eye or the U bolt on the transom. 

Fend Off Damage.

Jetpilot PWC Fenders are the perfect accessory when docking to protect your ski from damage that could be caused by rubbing against the dock itself. We recommend 2 x fenders for your ski. One for the front and one for the rear. Lightweight and easy to remove and install they can be stowed away when not in use and will help keep your ski protected when docking. 

Jetpilot Jetski Fender


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