How to tie a boat to a dock

How to tie a boat to a dock

There are entire books written about boating basics. In fact, there is probably a book about just about anything you would want to know about a boat.

How to securely dock a boat the right way is very likely covered in some of those books. But for those of you who want a concise and straightforward lesson on how to do just that, well, this blog post has you covered.

We will go over one of the most common ways to tie up a boat to a dock that has cleat hitches, plus what to do when you have to tie onto a dock that does not have cleat hitches.

Now, there’s not much “why” to discuss when it comes to tying up your boat. You don’t want your boat knocking and banging into the dock or other boats – or even worse – floating away without you, right?

So, let’s get straight to the how of the matter.

Start with the right approach

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s go over the basics of how to approach a boat dock that you want to tie onto. This can sometimes be a tricky process for beginners, but with the right technique and some practice, you’ll be a pro in no time.

First, get your approach lined up.

Take wind and current into consideration and note whether either will be sending you toward the dock. If yes, then approach at a shallow angle so you have more control over the boat and not run into the dock with the bow.

If the wind or current will be moving you away from the dock space, then you will need a steeper angle of approach so you can use the boat’s momentum to your advantage. The bow of your boat should target the center of where you want to end up.

Next, take it slow. There’s no rush and you could damage the boat if you come in too fast and hit the dock hard.

Third, once you are about half a boat length away from the dock, turn the steering wheel hard away from the dock so that the rear end comes close to the dock while the front end pivots away from the dock.

Finally, with your boat parallel and moving toward the dock, turn the wheel back toward the dock and shift into reverse. When the boat’s forward motion has ended, throw it into neutral. Once it’s close enough to the dock, you can reach out and grab a line or dock piling.

Tie a boat to a dock with a cleat hitch

With many docks, you will notice what are referred to as cleat hitches spaced on the decking. This is where you can tie your boat to the dock so that it is held securely in place. They are the same as the cleats on many boats.

To tie a boat to a cleat hitch, take the line and go completely around the base of the cleat under the horns – the two pieces jutting out from either end. Then, create a figure eight that goes over the two horns and then bring the line under itself. This creates a half hitch.

For an excellent diagram of what we just explained here, check out this walkthrough on tying up at a boat dock from BoatUS.

How many lines should you tie?

Now that you know how to tie up, you have to decide how many lines you use. This will depend on a number of factors, ranging from the size of your boat to the positioning of yours and others’ boats.

The whole idea is to limit the motion forward, backward and to the side of the boat while it is tied up. That can involve different types of lines tied to different parts of the boat. Those include:

  • Breast lines: Come off a boat at a right angle
  • Spring lines: Run at a shallow angle from the boat
  • Bow and stern lines: Lines coming from either the bow forward or to the stern and back to the dock.

Before tying to the dock, you will want to throw a spring line to someone on the dock to help you hold it in place.

Then tie a line from the boat’s bow cleat to a cleat on the dock ahead of the front of the boat. Next, tie a line from the back of the boat to a cleat facing the rear. This helps the boat not move fore and aft (forward or back).

Next, tie at an angle, a line from a stern cleat on the side of the boat furthest from the dock to a dock cleat toward behind your boat. This will help it be able to move here and there with any waves or wakes.

Tie a boat to a dock without a cleat hitch

If you can’t find cleat hitches on the dock you are trying to tie up to, then look for pilings or posts. You can use what is known as a clove hitch to tie the boat to the piling.

For a diagram of how to tie this knot, check out this helpful walkthrough.

Just know that this type of hitch won’t work with a cleat.

Protect your dock and boat with bumpers

If you are looking for ways to upgrade your own boat dock and keep both it and your boat in good shape, then it’s a good idea to invest in bumpers, also known as boat cushions.

At VW Docks, we keep boat cushions in stock, as well as many other accessories, to help make your sectional or floating dock the best it can be.

Let’s build your dream dock

Our team at VW Docks is always up for designing, building and installing custom docks, whether they be sectional or floating boat docks.

To get started dreaming up your lakefront home’s new dock, use our dealer locator to find one of our reputable dealers near you. Or, you can reach out to us directly for a free quote.

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