On the Water
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Best Dock Layouts

By Christy Heitger-Ewing
Published: February 1, 2007
webdock-NEW-COLOR
Photo by Tanya Nygren
Are you an “L” family? Or maybe a “T”? No, this isn’t some new variation on the Sleep Number quiz. We’re talking docks here. Docks come in many shapes and styles, and it’s up to you to decide the design that best fits your family’s needs. To help you envision your options, dock manufacturers like ShoreMaster and ShoreStation offer online software that lets you design your own layout, add accessories and obtain a cost estimate with the simple click of a mouse.
   
The tips below might also help you design your dream dock.    

webL-dock
Photo by www.shorestation.com
Best for Fishing
   
The beauty of the inverted L-shape is the empty space behind the leg of the “L” for unobstructed casting. Consider an extra-wide dock section for this leg, so you’ll have space to lay out fishing gear and to install a bench. When the fishing is slow, Grandpa and grandchild can relax on the bench and exchange fishing stories and strategies.
   
If possible, extend the dock far enough into the water so you’re right on the weed line – a prime spot for fish to congregate. (You’ll also notice that adding dock extensions, fingers or a boat hoist helps lure fish to your dock since they seek out cover and protection.)

webU-dock
Photo by www.shorestation.com
Best for Mooring Multiple Boats & PWCs
   
While boat hoists (lifts) are best for securing your boat, a U-shape slip also provides secure mooring for a boat. With a U-shape slip you can secure the boat from the bow, starboard and port sides to protect it from damage caused by wind and wave action. And you and your passengers can board and exit the boat from both port and starboard, as well as from the bow if you have an open-bow craft.

webT-dock
www.shorestation.com
webY-dock
Photo by www.shorestation.com
Best for Sunbathing, Skiing and Swimming:
   
T- and Y-shaped designs are nice if you want to separate activities. For instance, one dock leg can be reserved for “dry-dock” reading or sunbathing while another leg invites splashing, diving and squirt-gun fighting.
  
“But a large inverted L-shape also works great for staging your water-skiing or wakeboard activities. The L-shaped design offers the easiest access for loading and unloading passengers into and out of the boat,” says Kevin Rossiter, sales manager at ShoreStation of Okoboji.
   
In addition, the avid skier may want to invest in a dock box for storing ski equipment, life jackets and beach towels. These boxes, which come in various shapes and sizes, attach to the side of the dock, thus saving dock space.

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Photo by www.shorestation.com
Best for Entertaining

If you regularly host a crowd, you’ll want a dock that is safe, sturdy and offers plenty of space for moving around. For extra space in key gathering spots around serving tables, benches and lamps, consider 6- or even 8-foot dock sections instead of the standard 3- or 4-foot sections.
   
An inside corner section, or wedge, is wonderful for adding space – and peace of mind – where there would otherwise be a precarious 90-degree corner. Wedges are available in 2- or 4-foot widths from manufacturers like Floe International.
   
And you might also want a design that offers a little pizazz. Gary Johnson, residential marketing manager at ShoreMaster, suggests a curved design, which is both functional (you can curve the dock around obstacles like trees and rocks) and unique (your dock won’t look like your neighbor’s).
  
 “A rounded dock feels like more of an extension of your home than just a straight path to the boat,” explains Gary. “And the style is distinctly yours.”

Freelancer Christy Heitger-Casbon is counting the days until spring when the T-shaped dock goes back into the water at her family’s Michigan cabin.

Note: Check with your state and county authorities and lake associations to learn if there are any restrictions or regulations regarding dock installation on your lake.

 10 BEST Uses for a Dock
– Besides Parking Your Boats

•  speed ramp for leaping dogs
•  open-air planetarium for stargazing
•  rendezvous for sipping wine and nibbling cheese
•  Grandpa’s school for new fisherboys and girls
•  front row seats for the Fourth of July boat parade
•  getaway for late-night skinny-dipping
•  grandstand for greeting boaters-by
•  a hideout from your spouse’s honey-do list
•  stadium seat for hailing the onset of the seasons
•  aisle for open-air matrimonials

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