April 2013

Line handling

Boost your boating expertise

Line handling

Line handling isn’t taught in most classes or found in most textbooks; instead, it’s often passed by word of mouth from person to person. I had been boating for many years before I learned the following techniques.

Tying up

There’s a saying, “Don’t tie the dock to the boat; tie the boat to the dock.” This also applies during raft-ups. It means to keep the adjustment and control of your boat on your own boat.

Always pass the eye of the dock line to the dock (or other boat). The person on the dock (or boat) should put the eye around the cleat. Cleat-off the dock line on your boat. Now you can easily adjust your dock line without leaving your boat. Once understood, this technique seems so simple and obvious.


When heaving a dock line, don’t aim at the receiving person’s head. No one wants a wet dock line in the face, but we often have to dodge them.

If you are on the receiving end of a thrown dock line, hold out your arm to one side to encourage the thrower to aim to the side instead of your head.


When coiling a line, don’t put half-twists into each loop. This causes the line to tangle and fall into the water. As you coil a wet line, the line naturally wants to form a figure 8 for each coil; let it. Practice this technique and you may be surprised to find the line much easier to coil and toss.




Ship's Store

Mastering Marlinespike

Inside cow hitch

This knot serves the same purpose as a lark’s head, except it cinches tightly to the ring or spar rather than being prone to slipping.


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