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Calling ahead on the VHF or cell phone is always a good idea. Ask the marina for specific instructions on how to get to the assigned slip. Don't forget to ask which side the lines and fenders should go. I always try to check things out with binoculars before entering a restricted space where turning around will be difficult.

If you're unsure about a marina docking situation, tell the marina you would like to tie up at the fuel dock so you can check out the situation at the assigned berth. Walk over to the assigned berth to have a look at the available space, turning room, wind, current, etc. Make a plan for how you will maneuver the boat into the slip. Have a plan of how and when you will abort the approach if need be. It you need help, ask for it first from the marina staff. Others on the dock might be available, but their skill levels are unknown. (I know that the skill level of marina staff may be suspect as well.) If it looks too difficult, ask for another place to berth, anchor out, or move on.

It gets easier with experience. My first year with BR I dreaded docking in my assigned berth. It was the most stressful thing about being on the water. One thing that helped me a lot was reading books on boat handling and docking and then trying the suggested techniques in places where the space available and conditions were favorable. The real key to successful docking in strange places is to know your boat and have as much knowledge as possible before you're in a really tight situation. Oh, yea. Having lots of fenders helps too. :)
 
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