Boating is a lot of fun. Families everywhere enjoy a day on the water whether fishing or simply riding. However, boating isn’t something that you can simply jump into without a little knowledge of how to take care of your boat. One of the biggest mistakes that new boaters make is not learning how to securely tie their boat to a dock.
By not tying it off properly, it may beat against the dock, causing damage, or come loose so that it ends up drifting off.
If you are new to boating, don’t make the same mistakes that many others have. Learn how to tie a boat to a dock, so that it is secure and safe.
What You Need to Properly Tie Off Your Boat
One of the first things you will need to do when tying off your boat to a dock is to ensure you have everything you need within easy reach. Some of the most important things you will need include:
Bow and Stern Lines (Ropes)
These ropes will ensure that the bow and stern of your boat stay in place against the dock. They are in place to prevent the boat from drifting out away from the dock, especially if you are tied up parallel to the dock.
These ropes or lines are going to cross diagonally to further increase the stability of your boat against the dock. It prevents the movement of the boat so that it doesn’t drift forward or in reverse, rubbing against the dock.
Fenders or Bumpers
As waves from other boaters or changing tides cause your boat to shift its position slightly, it may rub and bump against the dock. To prevent this, you will need to have bumpers in place. It protects your boat and the dock. Most docks will have bumpers in place, but it is always a good idea to have some on your own boat as well.
These lines will run from various areas on your boat and should be in a mostly straight line to the dock. They will make it easier for you to climb onto the dock and back again.
Cleats on the Dock and Boat
Dock cleats are vital for any boat to be tied up. They are usually metal with a central base and then two points that stick out to each side forming a low “T”.
To make a knot that will keep your boat in place, you need to use these cleats to create loops and ties.
How many bumpers and lines you will need are going to depend mostly on where you are docked. Dock slips, where your boat is inside a slot with other boats on each side of a smaller walkway, you will need more ropes, bumpers, and other stuff.
At a private, single boat dock, you will only need to tie off one side of your boat, therefore requiring fewer lines and bumpers. You may also be able to leave the breast lines and spring lines off your boat, securing just the bow and the stern.
Rough waters may increase the need for other lines to keep it from moving back and forth, but not necessarily if you have bumpers between you and the dock.
You may also want more lines at a private dock if you plan to leave it docked for an extended period to keep it more securely in place. This way, if one line becomes loose, others are there to keep it stable.
Get the Boat into the Proper Position
Again, this depends on the type of dock that you are pulling up to. If you are pulling up to a single boat dock, you will need to approach it slowly by running parallel to it. If there isn’t a lot of space between docks, this can be tricky since you will, in essence, parallel park next to the dock.
Nosing into the dock will not make it easier unless you can lasso the dock and pull the stern to the dock that way. It is a lot more effort, and there really is no need for it.
If you are docking at a dock slip, you will want to slow down and put the bow of your boat toward the apex of the dock. Make sure you have a bumper on the bow if waves push you against it harder than you expect.
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How to Tie a Good Knot
Now that you know how to position your boat, you will need to know how to actually secure it using knots. This will depend on what you are securing the boat to since most, but not all, docks have cleats.
Tying Off to a Cleat
The cleats make tying off easier and more secure. However, it looks like an insanely confusing knot for a novice. As stated previously, a cleat has a “T” shape. You will start out by making figure 8’s with your rope, going over and under the top of the “T”.
When you feel confident that it is enough to hold your boat, you will tie a single knot by creating a loop with the line and wrapping it tightly around one of the T-arms. Ideally, this will be opposite of where you stopped the figure 8’s and the main loop will be on the bottom of the arm.
Tying Off to a Piling
There are many ways for you to tie off to a dock piling. You can use:
A Clove Knot by looping around the piling and tying a single knot, like when tying your shoes. Then repeating a few times to ensure it stays secure. This style of tying off is not recommended if the waters are rough.
The knots can loosen over time if there is a lot of wave action constantly pushing and tugging on the boat.
- A Pile Hitch is done by doubling up the rope to form a loop at one end. Wrap the line around the piling and place the loop over the top of it. If using this knot, you will want to take the loop under when you wrap around the piling.
Bowline Knots, which is a simple knot that requires you to make a loop in the line. The working end should be over the standing end. The working end then goes through the loop, around and behind the standing end before going through the loop again.
This knot does not slip, can be used to connect two lines, and comes undone easily with a little encouragement from you.
If securing the side of your boat, where you may not need excessive force, you can use a midshipman’s hitch around the cleat of the dock. You do it by tying a normal knot, leaving a loop at the end.
It can also be useful for other knot starts if you need to loop around a piling or another boat’s cleat.
Other knots can be used, but these are the most popular choices for avid boaters. You will have to decide how you feel most comfortable tying off your boat, and what feels most secure for your situation. Keep in mind that it may change randomly depending on the weather, the dock setup, whether tides are in or out, and your boat.
Another thing to keep in mind when tying off your boat is the tides. If you are docking in a river that may have high tides and low tides, you should leave enough slack in the rope to allow for the fluctuation, while also being tight enough to keep the boat knots secure.
It may also mean that if your boat is permanently docked at your private dock or the marina, you should also take into consideration spring tides.
Is It Different to Tie Up in a Dock Slip?
In general, whether you tie up parallel or in a dock slip, there isn’t much different. The slip will require more lines, more knots, bumpers, etc. because it puts something on each side of the boat that may cause damage to your boat or the dock. This can be important since slips are found mostly in marinas where a lot of boats may be parked in their parking spaces.
Some privately owned boat docks are also slips in style. Either way, they do add a more secure area for your boat to dock since there is protection on three sides. It can also make it easier for you to climb on and off the boat.
Final Thoughts: It’s Tricky, but Not Impossible
It sounds like a huge undertaking to tie off your boat properly, but the amount of effort will vary greatly depending on your situation. For instance, if you have a private dock, you can leave the lines on the dock when not in use holding your boat. This will make the process of tying off much faster.
Especially if you are docking in a dock slip situation, where you need lines on each side of the boat. The first few times you attempt to tie off your boat will be the toughest. After that, you should be able to figure out what works best for you and the type of dock that you use.