A Fictitious Marina to Practice Maneuvering

360 Ways to Dock and Maneuver Your Sailboat in a Marina like an Expert

Learn docking in VR without a single scratch on your Gelcoat


You’ve probably never realized how many combinations of docking and undocking a sailboat there are. And, neither did we until we started putting numbers to it. At least 360 different ways!

The significance is the shear amount of knowledge and experience you must gain to become competent with docking and maneuvering.

That is, to be assured of keeping the gel coat, bow pulpit, etc… intact on your boat whenever you go sailing, you should be very experienced in all the various docking combinations. But considering the number of variations, that becomes almost impossible – almost!

Here is the layout of a fictitious marina (similar to image at top): if you look at the slip spaces we have placed in and around the marina, there are about 11 docking options: several side-to’s, 2 med-moorings,  several slip combinations with stern-to and bow-to, and a pilon dock as well.

For each of the 11 docking there are: 4 different basic wind directions, catamaran or monohull choices, each dock has different getting-out-of-the-dock and returning-to-the-dock scenarios, and some monohulls have dual rudders that act completely different to single rudder monohulls. Each day has different wind speeds and so you must be versed at low-wind and high-wind situations. With a little bit of cyber number-crunching force, this multiplies to at least 360 fundamental docking scenarios that you can master to become a competent sailor.

Personal Anecdote: in 2016, I was asked by Beneteau to join them on their stand at the Annapolis boat show and offer for sale my newly printed Maneuvering Under Power book. (the book features photos of Beneteau boats in various maneuvering situations – thus the offer). On the Sunday of the show, our book sales peaked due to a 20-knot wind that had picked up in the marina. To sell a book, I would merely point at a boat and say “could you back that boat into that slip in that 20kt cross wind?”

Docking Book Sales increased with wind increase

In this blog article – 7 years later, I am offering an additional solution. The MarineVerse / NauticEd Virtual Reality App on meta quest contains a Maneuvering and Docking a Sailboat Under Power experiential training course whereby the physics is essentially identical to a real situation. In fact, it is more ideal training than the real identical because of the ability to experience all of the above 360 scenarios of docking in just a few hours. In every situation, you can adjust the wind speed and wind direction. You can try different combinations of spring lines. You can reverse the boat in stern first or go forward bow first. Our personal favorite is that you can practice the two types of med moorings – slime line or dropping anchor in the various wind combinations.

Virtual Reality is a way to practice with multiple repetitions of different and challenging scenarios in a safe environment – without the ‘cost of mistakes’.

See this video below showing our practice dock – then dive in yourself and practice – practice – practice.

Why practice docking in VR?

Often, with on-water training programs, we observe incomplete practice with Maneuvering and docking. It’s not the instructors fault. As a practical matter, and while that hands-on training is invaluable, an instructor is limited by 4 constraints: (1) the day’s winds, (2) marina configuration (and sometimes rules), (3) if too windy, then instructors consider liability and safety concerns, and (4) often risk aversion (the “cost of a mistake”) on newer or chartered boats. Considering all of those limitations, it’s a wonder if you can practice even a few of the docking scenarios. You’re sure as heck not practicing the 360 various fundamental scenarios!

Now with VR, a student will be able (after a few hours) to match the skill of a many-years-experienced sailor – how so? The student has the opportunity to practice a year’s worth of realistic docking scenarios in a few hours or so – without the fear or cost of mistakes!

Practice Med Mooring in Virtual Reality

Become a Total Expert

We are very excited about Adding Mediteranean Mooring training to the Virtual Reality training program on MetaQuest. It’s amazing.

Mediteranean mooring is one of those skills that’s challenging to practice at most marinas. And, it’s also a skill that can be costly to practice, much less master – even recently, we witnessed a sailor in Sardinia racking up over $800 in charges after backing over a slimeline! The MetaQuest device is $300 (as of 7/14/23) and the NauticEd/MarineVerse app in MetaQuest App store is currently only $20 +$99 for the unlimited version. That cost is less than a single gel coat scratch and a real justifiable cost.

Plus it is a heck of a lot of fun to challenge oneself in VR without the “cost of mistakes”. Why not? (LOL – also VR has many games and videos that if you have kiddos, or are a ‘big’ kiddo (most sailors are), they’ll enjoy VR as well).

See the NauticEd Virtual Reality Training program here: https://www.nauticed.org/sailing-courses/view/virtual-reality-sailing. Mediterranean Mooring is just one of the modules in this program – you can learn and practice MUCH more…

Does VR replace on-water training or experience?

Nope, real-life experience is the best. BUT… with VR you can practice more scenarios as well as practice more aggressively than is practical (or safe) in real life – which comprehensively trains you for when you encounter challenges in real life. This is similar to how professional pilots train, a combination of real life experience with many hours practicing in VR. Simply, you’ll be better prepared for most of the docking challenges life (and mother nature) will throw your way….

Cheers! Grant

Take the NauticEd/MarineVerse Virtual Reality Maneuvering and Docking Course. Here are the full instructions on how to get into the course via Meta Quest.

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My vision for NauticEd is to provide the highest quality sailing and boating education available - and deliver competence wherever sailors live and go.
Grant Headifen
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Last updated on August 29th, 2023