How to Dock Your Dad’s Yamaha Jet Boat - 06/09/2010

Dock talk is often equal to urban myth, and the jet boat has probably suffered as much, or more, from negative chatter than any other type of boat on the market. Most of that bad-mouthing revolves around the alleged difficulty of handling jet boat at the dock. As we noted a few weeks ago, if teenagers could handle docking a jet boat, then certainly anyone could do it. Two months ago an average family with four teenage sons bought a new Yamaha 242, and we’ve been following them to see how things would work out.

Yamaha 242 Docking
Seventeen-year-old Philip somehow manages to get the helm away from his Dad to get a little docking practice in Greenwich Harbor.

A Teenager’s Report—

By Philip (with some editing by Dad)

Launching the 242 is easy and can be accomplished with only one person, but its always best to have two people. Since there are no lower units protruding below the hull, a jet boat can actually be launched in shallow water conditions where it might be more difficult with a sterndrive. Sometimes at low tide launching ramps can be a problem for some other types of boats.

Yamaha 242 Docking
From the stern you can better see the amount of clearance you have with no drives to hang down below the hull, providing a very good shallow draft capability, and two less items to be damaged by teenagers!

Powering the boat off the trailer is straight forward and presents no differences from any other boat with sterndrive or inboards.

Different Steering

One of the first things I noticed is that the steering wheel on our Yamaha 242 does not turn more than 260 degrees. This seemed strange at first, but there is a good reason for it. Unlike an inboard, a jet boat does not have a rudder. In this respect steering is more like twin sterndrives that also do not have a rudder. The drives are articulated and steering is accomplished by the lateral movement of the water jet exhaust nozzle. I think the tight steering of the Yamaha is a good thing because the boat is so responsive to small corrections in the wheel, requiring a minimal wheel turn.

Yamaha 242 Docking
Note that there are no lower units hanging down into the water.

When you first launch and operate a jet drive boat it will feel different from other types of drives. Just like a single engine inboard sport boat there is a learning curve, but once you practice, you get the hang of it. The learning time is not long or hard.

Dad tells me that the Yamaha 242 with twin engines was about the same price as a lot of bowriders with only one engine. And there is no doubt in my mind that a twin engine jet boat is a lot easier to dock than a single engine sterndrive.

Yamaha 242 Docking
Launching off the trailer and recovery back on the trailer is just as easy as any other boat type, and with experience, you will find in some cases, a bit easier.

Wandering at Idle

When you are traveling along at idle or under six knots, the boat has a tendency to wander a little because it does not have a keel or rudder. The solution to this wandering is actually LESS power, not more. By working the engines in and out of forward and neutral, switching between starboard and port, I found a comfort zone where the boat becomes responsive and I get in sync with it. You just need some practice.

Yamaha 242 Docking
Hey, Philip! All beginners and teenagers should have two hands for the ship! Next, you’ll spill the coffee. (Then, you’ll find out how cool your Mom thinks that is.)

Turning on a Dime

Another characteristic of the Yamaha jet drive is its ability to turn on station, spinning 360 degrees within the length of the boat simply by putting one engine in forward and the other in reverse. You could think of it as “twisting” the boat to port or starboard. Because there is thrust going both forward and aft at the same time you actually have far more control, and handling the boat is far easier than with a single-engine sport boat.


Now that we know how to run the boat forward at idle in a straight line, and we know how to turn the boat in a circle in a boat length, we are ready to dock the boat. Simply idle along until you reach your slip, say, on your starboard side, for example. Then, just stop the boat, and “twist” it to starboard until the nose is pointing into the slip.

Of course, by this time you should have already gauged from which direction the wind and current is coming from. I always favor the side of the slip where the wind or current is coming from because I know that if all else fails they will gently take me to the other side, but if I favor the wrong side I could get pinned there.

So, just move the boat forward until you are in the slip, then move the boat sideways. Let’s say you want to slide the boat to starboard, here is the trick to doing that: By setting your wheel hard to starboard, and having the starboard engine in forward at idle, your port engine in reverse, you can move the boat sideways to starboard by increasing and decreasing the power to the port engine. Using this technique, even with the wind from starboard, you can slide to starboard to gently kiss the dock.

Yamaha 242 Docking
Now, if I could only get some serious time on the boat without the old man around.

Practice Makes Perfect

Dad says that all boats handle differently and take some practice. While my experience is limited I have found the Yamaha 242 easier to dock and handle than a single sterndrive. The difference is the fact that you have two propulsion devices not just one. Dad says operating a twin jet drive boats is a lot like handling a twin inboard boat.

Research the test results on this and other Yamaha jet boats here...