• Mobile App For Android Now Online!

    Download it here. The app is searchable in the Google Play Store under Sailboat Owners.

    Sorry iPhone/iPad users, we are still waiting on Apple. :(

    Click the X in the upper right corner to make this go away

Can I dock my boat stern first? SOLVED


Sep 12, 2019
Catalina, Hobbie 22, 16 Naram Atak Windycrest
Why does everyone dock, bow first, in their slip? The way my boat is docked in my slip the waves from the lake (I'm in a cove) hit my stern first.
May 1, 2011
Pearson 37 Lusby MD
I dock stern first to make it easier to get on/off my boat. Does your marina have rules that require bow in?
Jan 11, 2014
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Lots of reasons. Some as @Sandy Stone says the shoreline gets in the way, that's the way it is in my slip, water under the bow is about 3', under the stern >10'.

Privacy, sitting in the cockpit when it is facing the fairway offers greater privacy. You can sit in the cockpit and not feel compelled to say something to everyone walking down the dock.

It's easier. It is easier to drive into a slip and then back out than the other way.
May 17, 2004
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
I think you’ll find differences in preference by marina or region. In addition to the potential marina specific considerations above, I’ll add the following:
- The scenery and privacy is generally better docked bow in rather than with your cockpit to the dock.
- Prop walk might favor backing in or out depending on which way you come and go.
- Some people find boat handling generally easier when docking bow first, and some prefer stern first.
- Getting on and off the boat might be easier one way or the other depending on finger pier and dock configuration.

We dock bow in, mostly for the scenery and because we find it easier to maneuver that way. Our prop walks opposite that but we’ve overcome that. Our marina would prefer us stern in, because they use a yard boat to take boats to and from their travel lift, and the yard boat is designed to rest against a pointed bow. Most boats in our current Maryland marina are stern in, but almost everyone in our New Jersey marina went bow in.
Mar 3, 2003
Hunter 356 Grand Rivers
My slip is the same depth throughout so we back in all the time. We have floating docks so we step right through our end onto the boat. When cruising when floating docks we back in too. If you have the depth, it’s easier to come and go.
  • Like
Likes: gtg
Jan 22, 2008
Beneteau 323 Annapolis MD
Why does everyone dock, bow first, in their slip? The way my boat is docked in my slip the waves from the lake (I'm in a cove) hit my stern first.
Well, DUH, turn it around and do whatever is best for YOU.
Jun 25, 2004
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
I prefer a slip that allows me to point the bow into the wind, with the bow entering first. We have strong prevailing winds and there are at least two advantages: 1) you can hoist sails when the bow is into the wind for washing dirt and salt off and drying, 2) the wind slows you down as you enter the slips, as opposed to speeding you up.

Docking at a slip with 25 kts of wind on your stern is a bit frightening. Around here you can usually slips for for rent, but you may be put on a wait list before you can get one that allows you to drive in bow first with your bow in to the wind.

Bow-in to dock provides more privacy when cruising, bow to wind means the boat sits more quietly for sleeping than stern to wind, usually but not always.
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes: pjb13 and gtg

Tom J

Sep 30, 2008
Catalina 310 Quincy, MA
Sometimes it depends on the marina. If the finger pier is long enough, I prefer bow in. But, if the finger pier is a short, stubby thing, then stern first is the better choice.
Kids grandkids Sasha 2010 005.jpg


Feb 11, 2017
J/Boat J/160 Annapolis
Why does everyone dock, bow first, in their slip? The way my boat is docked in my slip the waves from the lake (I'm in a cove) hit my stern first.
Maybe we should start this over to be more targeted in our responses.
  • Do you mean: Why can't [you] back your boat in stern to?
    • Do you have a Catalina 22, or a Hobie 20-somehting, or?​
    • What is the configuration of your slip in terms of approach, clearance to back-in (say from a fairway), etc?​
    • Are there some depth of water issues in the stern?​
    • Are there finger piers, or very wide slips, or very narrow slips? etc.​
    • Do you have photos of the marina, other boats near you, etc.?​
  • Absent something physical in the marina, the answer generally: There shouldn't be a reason that you shouldn't; although some boats are easier to back than not.
I assume that the waves from the lake that you describe are from wind, not just wakes. However, if the winds are generally abeam, you might have some issues with wakes and wind working orthogonally on your best intentions.

Have you tried to back your boat into other marina's or your own?

So tell us more, or we'll just be speculating.
  • Like
Likes: gtg


Jun 1, 2004
Catalina 27 Mission Bay, San Diego
I'm more in Judy's camp.... prevailing wind direction is my first concern but privacy and sun exposure are almost as important. When I was in a "downwind" slip, docking bow first meant I had to back out against the breeze.... not too difficult if you have a helpful crew. However, if you're single handing or have no capable crew.. then getting the boat turned and heading down the fairway before the wind blows the boat back toward the dock can sometimes create anxiety. When I'm docked head first in an "upwind" slip... easy peasy.. I can raise the mainsail at the dock, back out easily and start turning the boat right away...
In my location the afternoon sun is also on the upwind side... I like morning sun... and afternoon shade.
Then there's privacy.... if I had to dock stern in, I'd install a privacy/wind curtain on the pushpit… maybe even on the Bimini(if I had one). Although, when there's a dock party of a bbq…. stern in is nice for socializing... so I'll just flip it around.
And of course, if you're outboard powered...Stern in is great for lifting the motor off to be serviced.
Last edited: