Don’t Let Your Boat Drift Away – Tie it up Right!

Cleatby David Bryant,

Tying up your boat to a dock is an essential skill that any boater needs to know. Thankfully, it is an easy skill to master.

When docking your boat at your lakefront property, you want to ensure two things: the boat remains relatively tight to the dock, and it does not move up and down the dock. We accomplish this by using two types of dock lines: spring lines, which keep the boat from moving fore and aft, and bow/stern lines, which keep the bow and stern from swinging out.

Below is a diagram showing the two most common dock tying techniques by boaters. Boat #1 is using two stern lines, one attached to the bow and one attached to the stern. These are then run diagonally across the boat to the opposite end of the dock. This technique is often used when the boat does not have a central cleat to tie of to.

Boat #2 is using one spring line attached to a midship cleat. The line is attached to one end of the dock, hocked around the midship cleat, and then tied to the other end of the dock.

Dock LinesYou will notice that in both scenarios, both boats are using both bow and stern lines. These are essentially to keep the bow and stern from drifting away.

When you are choosing lengths of dock lines, the general rule is that you want the bow and stern lines to be about two thirds the length of your boat and you want your spring lines to be the length of your boat plus five feet or so. So using these rules, a 25’ boat would want approximately two 15’ bow/stern lines and one 30’ spring line.

You always want to choose nylon ropes as they have the necessary durability and stretch to protect your boat. Most dock lines will come with a loop spliced onto one end of the line, with the other end having a heat sealed bitter end. While you can purchase a length of rope and splice the loop in yourself, it is often easier to simply purchase lines already with the loop on one end.

David Bryant writes for, one of the internet’s largest retailers of docking and anchoring products.  You can view their selection of dock lines here.

Posted by Scott Freerksen “The Lake Guy”

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