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 line handling techniques.
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. –John Martin
Want to learn more? Watch our “Knots to Know” series to learn the seven basic knots all boaters should know.
Feel at home on the water
Learn to boat with confidence by taking the Boat Handling course online from America’s Boating Club.