How to properly tie your boat up by Paul Dodge

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

With the 2017 season quickly approaching we’d like to talk about how to properly tie a boat up to a dock.  It’s important to have the boat tied up properly for a few different reasons.   An improperly tied boat can quickly lead to damage to the boat, the dock, or boats tied off nearby.  Another reason to make sure the boat is tied up properly is it can make leaving the dock a much safer and easier process.

One of the first things to understand when tying a boat to a dock is how to tie a cleat.  I’m sure many of us have heard the phrase “if you don’t know a knot, tie a lot” and while that may hold for the immediate future it isn’t as good as a properly tied cleat.  Tying the knot properly (see Figure 1) takes less time, is stronger, and is easier to untie than the many custom variations seen throughout the world.

The easiest mistake to make comes in the last step and it’s to make sure that the two lines directly on top of the cleat run parallel to each other, if you make the loop the wrong way they won’t lie parallel to each other and you’ll know you need to twist the loop the other way.  Those of us that have tried to untie a cleat that wasn’t tied properly will appreciate having the knot done right.

Now that we will all tie our cleats correctly we need to talk about the dock lines that we’ll use to secure the boat to the dock.  Depending on the size of the boat the number of lines used will differ, but every boat tied to the dock will always have a bow line, and a stern line (Figure 2).  The main purpose of these lines is to keep the boat sitting parallel to the dock.  These lines should run as perpendicular as they can from the boat to the dock.

Now that we understand how to have the boat sitting parallel to the dock we need to make sure that the boat isn’t going to move forward and backward, this is done using spring lines (Figure 3).  The number of spring lines used is going to differ from boat to boat, the larger the boat the more spring lines that should be used, but they all do the same thing.  In our example we’ll use two spring lines.

The spring lines need to run in different directions, one holding the boat from going forward, and one preventing the boat from going backwards.   After tying these lines, it can be helpful to push the boat all the way in one direction, and then the other, to make sure that the boat doesn’t move that far or hit anything.

One last thing that needs to be talked about, and is very important, is to make sure to have enough fenders out to keep the boat off the dock.  Also a little tip with fenders is to make sure the bottom of them isn’t in the water, it’ll prevent growth forming on them and help keep your boat clean.

While this is a good overview, every boat is different, and if you have any questions please feel free to ask and we’ll be glad to help you tie your boat up.