Boating Tips


Posted 7/27/2011

After successfully parking your boat alongside a dock or in a slip, now it’s time to make sure the boat stays in place, using dock lines – also called mooring lines – to tie the boat to the dock.

In the truest of the nautical vernacular, one isn’t tying up to the slip or dock, one is ensuring the vessel is “made fast” to the structure.

To stick with our simple-is-good philosophy, we’re addressing boating on a body of water that has no wind, waves, or fluctuations in water depth.

The Equipment
You’ll need four to six long dock lines (stout lines with a permanent eye spliced on one end) to secure the boat to the dock, and at least two fenders (heavy-duty cushions hung over the side of a boat to absorb the force of contact between a boat and a dock) to prevent the craft from touching the pier.

Line Art
As your boat eased near the dock, your crew probably placed a couple of fenders over the hull side, and hastily tied the boat to the nearest dock cleats or pilings – so far, so good.

We often see boats tied up with only two lines – one at the bow and another at the stern – with each line running at about a 90-degree angle from the boat to the dock. These two lines will secure the boat to the dock, but the boat may still drift slightly frontwards or backwards (fore and aft), potentially allowing the craft to bump into other boats, especially at a crowded pier.

The correct method of making your vessel fast to the dock or slip is quick and easy, usually involving four mooring lines: a bow line and stern line to secure the ends of your boat to the dock; and two spring lines to limit the fore and aft movement of your craft.

Bow and stern lines’ locations are self-explanatory; the bow line is at the front and the stern line is at the back of the boat. Spring lines hold the boat amidships (the middle), by running one spring line from a dock cleat situated near the center of the vessel to the bow, and then another spring line to the dock cleat from the stern. (see illustration below)

Or, lacking a centrally-located dock cleat, if your boat has a cleat (or cleats) on the gunwale close to its center, you can rig spring lines from the amidships cleat(s) aft to where the stern line is tied to the dock, and forward to the bow line dock cleat. (See illustration below)

If you find yourself in a slip, instead of parallel-parked at a dock, you can rig two lines from the bow to the port and starboard pilings, and crisscross the stern lines (port line to starboard piling, starboard line to port piling). (See illustration below)

Actually, tying up only takes a few minutes, and don’t forget to strategically position the fenders to stave off any close encounters.

It’s Knot a Problem
You only need to know two dock line fastening techniques to tie up your boat – both rate 10 on the Easy Scale.
· Most dock lines / mooring lines have an eye (loop) incorporated on one end; this is end you’ll tie to your boat. Pay attention, because there are three steps to this procedure:
· Push the eye of the dock line through the opening in the base of the cleat
· Loop the line’s eye over both horns (the ends) of the cleat
· Pull the dock line snug

Tying the line to a standard dock cleat is also a three-step process. With the mooring line in hand:
· Wrap the line around the base of the cleat
· Pull the line over the top and around the opposite horns of the cleat to create a figure eight with the line
· Make two additional figure eights, if possible
· Secure by tucking line under last wrap to form a half hitch 
(See illustration on next page)

Whip and Snub
We’ve talked about securing your boat to the dock with lines, fenders, and knots; however, there is another means to keep your craft in place by holding it away from the dock – mooring whips.

Mooring whips are long fiberglass poles that are fastened to the dock on one end, and tied to your boat via lines and pulleys on the other end. The general concept is to tie up to the dock, then fasten the lines from the top of the mooring whips to the bow and stern of your vessel.

When you pull the mooring whip lines tight to secure them to the boat, the mooring whips bend under the strain, thus pulling your pride and joy a short distance away from the dock or seawall. Mooring whips are great in tidal, windy, or high-traffic areas, and do a fine job of protecting your boat from taking a beating.

Shifting gears a bit, rubber mooring snubbers are ingenious devices that absorb excessive impacts and extreme stresses on your boat’s mooring lines. Easy to install, snubbers can prevent dock lines from separating under severe loads as well as avert potential damage to your boat’s deck hardware.

Wrapping Up Loose Ends
Securing your boat to the dock isn’t nearly as intimidating as actually piloting the craft to its place at the pier.

Use high quality dock lines, and fenders (make sure the fenders are large enough for your boat); practice, be patient with yourself and your crew – and tying up will soon be as easy as tying your shoes.

Department of Interior Motorboat Operator 
Certification Course (MOCC)

U.S. Coast Guard Boat Crew Seamanship Manual

Image Credits
· Department of Interior Motorboat Operator 
Certification Course (MOCC)
· Taylor Made Products®
· U.S. Coast Guard Boat Crew Seamanship Manual