Tech Wiki

How to make a Docking Stick Knock-Off

DIY Docking Stick

by Dan Cross, Ennui Went #159

Intro

I watch every docking video I can find. We all know why. Good technique combined with lots of practice is, of course, the solution to each docking situation. But, there’s also the gizmos.

One gizmo that strikes me as simple and sensible is the Docking Stick. And, it looks oh so copy-able. After noodling around with a prototype for a couple of hours, I was able to make 4 Docking Stick knock-offs (hereinafter, “sticks”) in under 48 minutes and $10.00. My kind of project!

After a summer’s use, I can report that the sticks work great. Even the Admiral, always a cautious adopter of my projects, allows that they work fine. We don’t use them for every docking. But, they’re great for getting a line onshore when the wind is blowing off the dock and for hooking a spring line when entering a transient slip without help. We keep one docking line permanently rigged with the stick in the cockpit locker and pull it out when needed.

The Original

For those not familiar with the Docking Stick, here is the company's website. There you can link to their product videos showing the Docking Stick in action.

The Sticks



Making Sticks

A Materials List and Construction Instructions to make four sticks follow. Before starting, be sure to read through the Construction Tips and Notes, especially those about cutting the Poly Pipe. They concern SAFETY!

Materials

Item Qty. Cost Source
5/32" dia. – 1/18”-1/4” aluminum rivets 20 2.49 Ace Hardware
¾” dia. PVC 10 ft. 1.73 Home Depot
1” dia. Poly Pipe 2 ft. .67 Home Depot
¼” x 1” course nylon hex bolts w/nuts 4 .71 Home Depot
1” dia. Wooden dowel 4 ft. 3.98 Home Depot
Total Cost 9.58

Tools

  • Chop saw
  • Table saw
  • Drill press with tubing jig
  • 5/32" drill bit
  • 3/16" drill bit
  • 1/4" tap

Cutting Instructions

PVC

  1. Cut pipe to 16" lengths on chop saw.

Poly Pipe

  1. Insert dowel in Poly Pipe (dowel can be shortened for easier handling).
  2. Cut slot of approximate 90° arc in the length of pipe on table saw (see photos and Sketchup diagrams).
  3. Cut pipe to 5" segments at the chop saw, cutting ends at 45° angles sloping inward towards slot.

Drilling Instructions

PVC

  1. Drill 3/16" hole about 1” – 2” from end and tap for ¼” nylon bolt. Repeat for each PVC pipe.

Poly Pipe

  1. Drill 5/32” hole 1” from one end, at bottom of pipe (i.e., 180° away from slot). Repeat for each pipe.

Assembly Instructions

Do the following assembly process for each stick.

  1. Align Poly Pipe with end of PVC pipe, at the end with tapped hole, rotated about 90° from tapped hole. See photos, above. Mark hole on PVC with a sharpie. Drill 5/32” hole through PVC at mark.
  2. Rivet Poly Pipe to PVC pipe.
  3. Drill 2nd hole through combined Poly Pipe/PVC pipe at middle of Poly Pipe. Rivet Poly Pipe to PVC pipe.
  4. Drill 3rd hole about 1” from end of Poly Pipe. Install rivet.
  5. Install nylon hex bolt and nut.

Construction Tips and Notes

Poly Pipe

  • Prototyping schooled me: don’t try to cut the Poly Pipe without the dowel. Without the dowel, the pipe will squeeze the blade at the table saw. I did the table saw cuts without the dowel and the cut-out kicked back at the end of the second cut. Without the dowel, the chop saw grabbed and twisted the pipe. Dowel diameters vary. Buy the Poly Pipe and dowel together to make sure that you get a dowel that slides into the pipe. You might have to step down to a 7/8” dowel.
  • I’ve estimated the poly pipe slot cut-out as a 90° arc. This will produce a pretty tight fit. I had a greater arc in my prototype, but found it to be too loose when the docking line was installed. There is a fair amount of weight in the loop and line running the length of the boat hook. The stick was prone to dropping off the boat hook.

Hand Tools

  • I had the benefit of decent power tools when I moved to the production run. I did much of my prototyping with hand tools. The only challenge was cutting the slot out of the Poly Pipe. I couldn’t get my sharp Japanese handsaw to start a good cut. I finally made the cut with a cut-off blade on my Dremel. It melted its way through the pipe. If building the sticks with hand tools, I’d first cut the Poly pipe into its lengths and then cut the slot from each length.

Nylon Bolt

  • The shortest length bolt I found was 1”. You don’t need that much length. If the bolt gets in the way in the field, I’ll figure out how to shorten it without messing up the threads.