If you’re pulling into a marina for the afternoon, then you’re going to need to know how to tie a boat to a dock. Learning to dock a boat correctly is one of the most challenging aspects of boating, and there are many moving parts to the process. Getting the docking right is only half of the issue.
You’ll also need to understand how to correctly tie off your boat to the dock to keep it from floating away while you’re exploring the marina with the family. Learning to tie a boat to the dock is like any other skill; you get better at it with practice.
However, it would help if you had the right strategy to guide you to successfully tying off of the boat to the dock. If you don’t have the right approach, you’ll end up repeating your mistakes. We decided to take the stress and hassle out of tying off your boat by giving you our strategy guide to tying off at the dock.
Follow our brief guide, and you’ll find yourself an expert on knots and successful docking in no time.
Understanding the Cleat Hitch
Visit most docks along the east and west coasts or out in the Gulf, and you’ll find many boat captains tie their boat to the pier using a cleat hitch knot. Unfortunately, you’re also likely to see some shoddy knot work from captains all over the marina.
Tying a bad knot might result in it slipping and drifting your boat from the dock into other nearby vessels or objects. Learning to tie a proper cleat hitch is must-have knowledge for any boat owner.
To tie the cleat hitch:
- Start with passing the line around the cleat base for one full turn.
- Make a figure-8 over the two horns on the cleat and turn the line under itself to make the half-hitch.
- Pull the hitch tight, and you’re ready to walk away.
The key to making a secure cleat hitch is to only use two or three turns around the cleat’s horns. Most people layer too much on the turns, but additional turns don’t give the hitch any extra holding power.
Understanding the Pile Hitch
If you want to most secure connection to the dock, we recommend going with the pile hitch. This knot offers you supreme holding power. This knot is ideal for boaters who need to tie off to a piling instead of a cleat.
The pile hitch offers boaters is a simple and effective method for tying their boat to any dock. Double your line and wrap it around the piling from back to front. Loop it over the top of the post and pull it tight to secure the knot.
The pile hitch offers you a secure hold to the dock, and it’s suitable for use in rough weather conditions. However, remember to remove the slack in the line when tying off to the pier. Leaving slack in the line will cause the boat to move around and damage the body.
Tying to a Piling
If you can’t see any cleats around the docking area or per, you might have to settle for pilings for tying up your boat. Typically, we prefer tying up in cleats as they are more effective. Tying up on pilings is another skill altogether, and it might be challenging for new boat owners.
There are several ways you can tie off the boat to the piling. The easiest method is using the clove knot for the task. If you want to tie a clove knot, you’ll loop the piling with the dockline and pass its free side underneath it. Secure the line by pulling it tight. Do this procedure a few times to get a secure and reliable knot.
The clove knot is the perfect knot for short-term stays, allowing for fast removal and relaunch of the vessel from the dock when it’s time to leave. We recommend avoiding using the clove knot in rough water, adverse weather, or windy conditions.
Tying Up with Docklines
When you’re tying up your boat, you’ll need to secure it to the dock using specialized “dock lines.” The dock lines serve the purpose of limiting the movement and range of motion of the vessel from the side of the dock.
The dock lines can tightly secure the boat to the dock, preventing sidewards banging of the boat to the dock that might damage the boat or the pier. When tied up in the dock, the boat can have a fore-to-aft motion or a transverse motion, or a combination of both.
The key to successful docking and tying of your boat involves identifying the right dock lines to use that effectively stop the boat’s motion in the water in all directions.
The breast lines are the lines coming off at a right-angle to the side of the boat. These lines limit the boat’s forward movement away from the dock.
The spring lines run at a shallow angle along the boat’s length. These lines limit the forward and backward movement of the boat.
Finally, the stern and bow lines run from the stern to the boat’s aft and from the bow to the dock. We name the dock lines according to the following convention.
Direction from the boat / Position on boat / The line’s function.
Therefore, a “forward ¼-spring” is the line running from the cleat at the vessel’s stern forward to the dock. This line prevents the boat from moving astern during docking. The “after-spring” line leads aft, limiting the boat’s forward movement.
Use Lines to Secure the Boat Safely
If you’re planning a short stop alongside the slip, you can probably get away with tying up your bot using three docking lines. Using the breast lines gives you a bit of a disadvantage in some places where there are extreme tidal ranges or wakes from other watercraft nearby the dock.
The breast lines limit the vertical motion of the boat when tied up at the dock. You might even strain the breast line if you step out onto the gunwale of the vessel. We recommend you go with one spring line, a bow, and a stern line for the best combination of dock lines.
The best strategy for tying up your boat using these dock lines is to run the spring line from the aft of the vessel and the bowline forward. This strategy limits the horizontal movement of the boat while allowing for vertical movement while tied up in the slip.
Run your stern line from the side of the boat furthest from the dock. This strategy limits the forward and the traverse motion of the vessel. Remember to place your fenders at the right spots on the side of the boat to mitigate the chance of damage and add tension to the lines for a secure and successful docking procedure.
If you’re planning to stay for longer than the afternoon, consider adding a secondary spring line crossing the opposing direction of your first line.
Tying Up the Boat in a Slip
Typing your boat up in the slip at the marina requires the use of four docking lines. It would help if you had a bow, stern, breast, and spring lines. When you’re tying up in the slip, you’ll find there are options for using pilings or cleats. We recommend going for the cleats as they offer you better holding power than pilings.
Before you start moving into the slip, we recommend that you launch the fenders over the sides of the boat in the right spots. The fenders prevent the boat’s hull sides from coming in contact with the dock, resulting in damage to the paint and the gel coat on your boat.
We recommend running the bowlines forward when you’re typing up in the slip. It’s also important to cross the stern lines. Using this strategy limits the boat’s forward motion during the docking and tying procedure.
If you have a boat with an overall length exceeding 35-feet, we recommend adding your spring lines to your docking procedure. The spring lines are also essential for docking in windy conditions or where there is a strong current in the water.
Wrapping Up – Study Techniques on YouTube
Learning to tie knots successfully involves two aspects. First, you need a good teacher, and second, you need plenty of practice. It takes a few attempts to get some knots right, and the more you practice, the better you get at the skill.
To find out how to tie any knot, visit YouTube and check out the free tutorials on securing any type of knot. Look for short and effective tutorials, and understand the process before you start attempting to tie knots yourself.
When you’re ready to start tying, keep the video on standby. Follow the instructions and pause at points where you need to practice certain aspects of the knot. With enough practice, you’ll eventually get the mechanics of tying any type of knot.