How to Park a Boat in a Slip

How to Park a Boat in a Slip

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Around the country and the world many recreational boaters store their crafts in boat slips. These narrow "parking spaces" of the sea tend to be slightly larger than the boat they hold and offer a relatively low cost option for marina storage. Commonly edged with poles driven into the floor beneath the water, boat slips require certain skill to get into and out of.

Approach the marina at a slow pace so as not to make a wake. Your ideal speed is just above an idle that, when coasting into a marina filled with boats, will feel much faster. Cut the engine to neutral while you are still at least 100 feet from the slip. Coast the rest of the way on the momentum you built up on the way in.

Turn the wheel hard towards the space as you get within a boat length of your slip. The boat will react slower than normal when coasting so the exaggerated turn is necessary to get it headed in the right direction. The nose of the boat should now be facing the back of the slip you are moving into. Keep your hand on the throttle to prepare for subtle adjustments. If you have made your turn perfectly, the back end of the boat should slide around making you parallel to the slip posts and you should move to Step 3. If not move to Step 4.

From here you can either wait for the boat to drift into its final position, or you can grab hold of the poles and slide it in manually by pushing or pulling as needed. Be ready to stop the boat with either your hands or a quick burst of reverse thrust with the throttle before you hit the back wall.

Use the throttle and steering to correct your slide if you are operating the boat alone. A slight touch on the stick is all you will need, and overdoing it can cause problems. A forward burst will slide the boat further as long as the wheel is still in the slip-ward direction. A slight burst in reverse with the wheel in the opposite direction will cause the boat to pull away from the slip entrance and straighten itself. If you have help on the boat, ask for them to grab the nearest pole and pull you in manually.

Toss a rope around the front pole and fasten it the front cleat by looping it over both ends and passing it through the loop twice. Perform the same action at the back pole and cleat.


  • Do not come into the marina or the slip itself at a high rate of speed. You will not be able to control your boat if it is moving too fast and the damage you can cause to other boats is significant.
  • If backing into the slip make sure to be ready with the throttle to fend off the back wall before it shears off your prop.


  • Having a friend help at first will prove far easier than going at it alone. Getting the feel for your particular boat's coasting tendencies takes time and having a backup or emergency plan in the form of a helper takes much of the pressure off.
  • Ask for a slip at the end of the row furthest toward the open water, or a slip with nothing across from it. This removes the tighter spaces of crowded marinas out of the equation and places other boats out of harms way.
  • Parking your boat nose in is simpler, but parking it back in makes it easier to board and load, as well as clean and flush.