Jim, I think the best tip I ever saw was to go out and buy one of the longest 2x4's you can find (or PVC pipe, etc.) and a couple of floats or 2-liter soda bottles. Then take them out to some spot where you can't entertain the crowd, rig two floats to a 2x4, and drop one in the water
Now you can practice docking
all you want, without really banging anything up and without that distracting applause.<G>
As so many others have said the tricks are to prepare, to practice, and to have things rigged well out in advance, so you can do all the running around to set them while in open water
. Personally, I like to run all lines back to the boat, rather than tying them ashore. This means I can throw a line around a cleat, and secure it, without leaving the boat. No jumping around needed, no shore help needed (although I'm happy if it is there.)
It also helps to have a spare shroud
or other long line aboard, which can be thrown and then used to warp the boat in if needed. Yes, "warp" applied to ships before starships, and it is perfectly valid if not elegant.
Don't be afraid to come in too slow, it just takes TIME to learn any given boat. My goal is to have the boat drift to a dead stop where I want it, rather than coming in fast and using the engine
equally fast to stop it.
But then again I'm spoiled, I'm done most of my "docking" either bow-to or on a mooring. First time I actually had to bring a boat alongside a dock
(a crowded long fuel
dock) I realized about fifty feet out that I'd never DOCKED a SAILboat before.<G>