Essential Guide to Docking your Pontoon

Bringing your pontoon boat to the dock and getting it back up on the trailer can be pretty tricky, especially for a beginner. There’s nothing to be ashamed about, as it takes a bit to get the skill necessary to perform this operation without getting any dents in your pontoons. What’s more, there are certain situations where the difficulty of trailering increases exponentially and even experienced pontoon captains can very well find themselves in quite a pinch.

There are, however, a few tips and tricks that can help you get the hang of it a bit more quickly. Of course, you could try to do it according to your own inspiration and common sense, but this hard way isn’t only hard for you, but also for your $20-30.000 boat. Keep this in mind and go carefully through the list of pointers below.

Table of Contents

#1: Don’t wait for the storm

We’re all tempted to believe that our pontoon boat is faster than the upcoming bad weather and we can stay just a bit longer before the storm shows up. Pretty much all who believe this are bound to have a shocking revelation: they’re wrong.

The problem with pontoon boats, in this case, is the construction. Their very tall platforms above the waters become nothing but sails when high winds are blowing. As a result, you may find out that 1) your boat is heading to the shore a bit faster than what safety allows and 2) you can’t get your boat on the trailer because the wind keeps pushing it back and forth. Even worse, when you’re on the sea, waves will shake your pontoon a lot more than a traditional v-hull, due to the same reason – the wide exposed surface.

#2: Get a docking hook

It’s exactly what you probably think it is: a hook at the end of a long stick which helps you pull the boat to the dock. You can get a telescopic one on Amazon for a really great price, and trust us: it will help.

If you’re into multifunctional tools, the Five Oceans BC-1885 doubles as a paddle for when your engine fails you.

#3: Don’t get the trailer too deep into the water

The problem with boats is that you can’t exactly pick them up and put them on the trailer and, as such, you have to take the trailer to the boat. If, however, there’s too much water between the bottom of the boat and the trailer, the boat will simply slide back into the water or get pushed by the wind towards the side, which is even worse.

The solution is as follows. Pull the trailer into the water until the wheel wells are barely covered by water. Bring up the front of the boat and align it with the trailer, then tell the driver to move in a bit deeper and drive the boat up the trailer.

#4: Use the dock for protection against wind and waves

If you’re getting out of the water while high winds are blowing, get your boat on the trailer using the dock as a shield. It’s pretty simple, really: tell your driver to pull in on the downwind side of the dock and do as described in step #3. The dock will break the wind and waves a bit and give you some extra time and space for maneuvering.

#5: Everyone off the boat

There are two reasons why it’s not recommended to have passengers on board when trailering. First, there’s the weight issue: if the front of the boat is loaded, it’ll take a lot more thrust from the engine in order to get up on the trailer. Second, there’s the lack of visibility, as passengers obstruct your visibility of the trailer.

If at all possible, get everyone off the boat before trailering. If not, at least have them move towards the back and clear the front of the boat.

Jerry Brookes

Hi I'm Jerry, founder of I've been pontooning for over 30 years believe it or not and have learned a thing or two about pontoons. As my passion project Pontoon Helper is aimed at educating any reader on all the different things you need to know before pontooning. I consider myself somewhat of an expert in this industry as it has become my life since retirement. Feel free to submit a comment or question on the website and I'll try to get back to you.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments

Hi Jerry, thank you very much for sharing this, I’m new to all this boating stuff as I haven’t been around boats much before but I just got a pontoon this summer and all our guides on your blog really helped me. Especially this kind of stuff like how to dock your pontoon, no one really talks about this stuff on the internet cause they assume everyone knows how to do it haha


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