Choosing dock lines
Dock lines are important safety equipment. Whether securing your boat to a dock or another boat for a raft-up with friends, always be ready with the proper line.
Every boat should have two sets of dock lines: a designated transient set for use when cruising and a permanent set 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 with a minimum diameter of three-eighths of an inch. Keep in mind that larger lines wear longer but stretch less, and 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 with ample give for mid-cleat attachment.
Protect your permanent set of lines from chafing—the enemy of all lines in constant use. You can buy or make chafe guards from leather, rubber or old garden hose. You should also protect your lines 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
Feel at home on the water
Learn to boat with confidence by taking the Boat Handling course online from America’s Boating Club.