Tying up at the dock is one of the most common actions you will complete as a boater. Whether at a marina, your personal dock, at the boat ramp, or even your favorite waterside restaurant; knowing how to tie your line to the docks cleat hitch is something you will learn to do with your eyes shut.
The 6 Steps of Tying up a Boat to a Dock
When a vessel is tied to the dock properly it will be secure as to not float away and it also wont be able to get damaged or do damage to other nearby boats.
- Plan Your Approach
- Drop your Fenders to Protect Your Hull
- Toss a ‘Spring’ line to someone on the dock
- Secure a Line from the Bow Cleat to a Dock Cleat Forward of the Boats Bow
- Tie the ‘Spring’ Line to a Dock Cleat angled Aft
- From your Stern Cleat Opposite the Dock; Attach the Line to a Dock Cleat Positioned Behind the Boats Stern
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What is a spring line? A spring line is the line that is attached to the cleat in the middle of the boat. When docking a boat where only one side of the boat accesses the dock (aka alongside), 3 lines should be plenty. Tying all 3 lines at an angle, instead of straight from the boat to the dock, allows the boat to still move up and down with the waves or tides.
Tying up a Boat in a Slip in 5 Easy Steps
- Plan Your Approach (backing in is preferred)
- Drop Your Fenders
- Attach a Line to the 2 Cleats on the Back of Your Boat
- Cross the Lines, Then Tie Them to the Opposite Cleat on the Deck (making an ‘x’)
- Add 2 Bow Lines (both from 1 or 1 from each if you have 2 bow cleats) to the Respective Forward Cleat or Piling. (no ‘x’ here)
Whether tying up to a ‘U’ shaped dock or an end dock with front pilings, the best method is to always use 4 lines. Using 4 lines will keep your boat stable and inline between the docks/pilings.
Before tying up be sure to consider whether you are tying up to a stationary dock or a floating dock and if you plan to be docked long enough for the tide to rise or lower. If tying to a stationary dock and you expect a lot of motion, leave a little slack in the lines to allow the boat room to bob with the sea.
If your vessel is over 35 ft or are expecting a storm or a lot of wave movement, it is recommended to add a set of spring lines on either side to keep the boat extra stable.
How to Tie to a Cleat Hitch
A cleat is the bracket on both your boat and the dock that has 2 horns sticking out on either side. Rule #1, never try to tie off to any other part of your boat, like a railing. Most recreational boats will have 5-6 cleats: 2 – aft, 2 – midship, 1 or 2 – forward. Larger models may have several more.
- Tie a tight loop at the base of the cleat.
- Create a figure 8 by wrapping it around the cleat horns, tightly.
- Perform half a figure 8 around one horn, pulling the freeline underneath the top rope.
- Then pull on the free line to tighten everything up.
- Coil the remaining rope neatly to the side of the cleat, out of the walkway to avoid a tripping hazard.
The best thing you can do is keep it simple. Try to limit it to just 3 loops. There is no proof that shows more loops equal more stability. If anything, it can hinder your take of time or make it easier for the line to slip off the horn.
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Once you get the hang of it, tying up to a dock or slip will be a breeze. If you are tying up alongside a dock be sure to use 3 angled lines. When tying up in a slot, make an ‘x’ with the back lines and use 2 angles front lines. Remember to keep it simple when looping the cleat, 3 loops should be plenty.