The Difference Between Docks and Piers

by Will Charpentier
Boats parking at a dock.

Boats parking at a dock.

English is a sloppy language in which one word may have several popular, but technically incorrect, meanings. The difference between a dock and a pier is one example. The sailing public may think a dock is the same as a pier, but to a professional seafarer the dock is the water adjacent to the pier to which he ties his vessel.

Watery Parking Space

A dock is a watery parking space, while a pier is like a sidewalk. Unlike a dock, a pier is a concrete, steel or wooden transitional structure between water and land. Ashore, you must leave your parking place to arrive at your destination, whether a store, an office or some other facility. You cross a transitional structure, such as a sidewalk, to get to the buildings around the parking lot. Like your parking place, the dock is a defined, albeit watery, place in the water alongside a pier where you park your boat. You walk across or up a transitional structure, a pier, to travel between your boat's dock and the buildings and facilities ashore.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

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