July 2012

All tied up

How to choose and use dock lines

All tied up: choosing and using dock lines

Dock lines are important safety equipment. Whether securing your boat to a dock or to a raft-up with a friend, always be ready with the proper line.

Every boat should have two sets of lines: a designated transient set of lines for use when cruising and a permanent set of dock lines for use at your home dock or mooring.

Your transient set of lines should come with one spliced eye and one bitter end for tying up the boat. The eye should be large enough to pass around a cleat or secure to a dockside piling. The bitter end should be adjusted on board; however, many boaters prefer to release the bitter end to the dock handler and secure the spliced eye around their boat cleat.

What’s your line?

Whether three-strand or braided, nylon line’s superior combination of strength and stretch make it perfect for dock lines. Although three-strand line stretches more, it’s snag-resistant and less expensive, but it can be abrasive when handling. Braided nylon line is stronger, comes in a variety of colors and feels nice in your hands.

Use one-eighth inch of line diameter for every 9 feet of boat length. Larger lines may wear longer but could stretch less; oversized line diameters are not always better.  

When used from the bow or stern, lines should be approximately two-thirds of your boat’s length. Always a good idea, spring lines should equal your boat’s length from bow to stern cleats with ample give for mid-cleat attachment.

Your permanent set of lines should be protected from chafing—the enemy of all lines in constant use. You can buy or make chafe guards from leather, rubber or old garden hose. Lines also should be protected from chafe by using eye splices and shackles on dock rings. Always adjust your dock lines to accommodate your boat’s length to the slip space. –Ann Peltier



Stay cool this summer with this Tervis ice bucket with tongs and lid from the Ship's Store.

Mastering Marlinespike

Bowline on a bight

An ancient bowline variation still used in water rescue work, the bowline on a bight easily forms large loops in any part of the rope without regard to the rope ends.


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