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Marine docks

How to dock a Boat and How to tie a boat to the docks?

on August 15, 2021

Learn the basics of docking your boat and tying your boat to the dock

Docks, dock cleats, cleat hitch

How to dock a boat and tie a boat to the docks?

Heading into the docks, to dock your boat can be stressful especially if you are up against a strong wind, and if there are other boats in the area, tying your boat might seem difficult, for experienced boaters this is not the case as they have mastered the skill of docking! Larger boats require space and are more difficult to dock, however, the basics of docking your boat remain the same.

How to Dock a Boat 

Learning how to dock is one of the first steps when boating; taking a docking course is highly recommended, learn all the different ways of docking. Today we will learn the basics steps of how to dock your boat? The four sets of lines you use to secure your boat and different knots that are used to connect and secure your boat.


Docking in a slip, dock cleat, bow cleat

8 Basic steps to dock your boat

  1. Prepare the dock lines on the bow (front) and stern (back) of your boat.
  2. Attach the fenders, also known as the bumpers; fenders protect your boat from damages and prevent damages to berthing structures.
  3. When entering the harbor, reduce speed, move towards the dock at a slow speed.
  4. Analyze the docking area and line it up with your approach 
  5. Approach the dock at a 30-degree angle with the engine on idle, point the boat's bow toward the dock; if you are within ten meters of the docking point, shift the engine to neutral and let the boat drift to the dock.
  6. The best advice when docking: never approach with a speed higher than the one you are willing to hit the dock.
  7. Just before your boat touches the pier or dock, turn your steering wheel away from the dock and bring the boat parallel to the dock.
  8. Tie your boat onto posts, pilings, or cleats using the docking/mooring lines.


Docking in a Slip

Docking a boat in a slip is a common scenario you will find yourself in. Docking into a slip is intimidating for most because there is very little room for error and the fact that you need to back into a slip. There are two reasons for backing a boat into a slip. First reason: with the stern first into the slip makes boarding easier, and second, it is easier when you need to depart.


Docking accessories, stern cleats, dock cleats

  • Prepare docking lines at the bow and stern and attached fenders/bumpers, prepare before you head into the dock.
  • Check your surroundings line up with the dock as best you can
  • Proceed with slow speed, position your boat so that you can back into the slip, and center your steering wheel once you are ready to back into the slip.
  • Now line up with the slip and prepare to move in; tell your passengers to stay seated this is for their safety and to help with the balance on your boat as you need to keep the boat steady as you back into the slip.
  • Slowly reverse your boat into the slip.
  • To stop the backward momentum once you are in the slip, apply very little power forward.
  • Tie your lines to the dock, are sure your lines are secured.


What do you need to tie a Boat to a Dock?

Docking lines –can be used differently and can be referred to as bow lines, stern lines, spring lines, and breast lines. In most cases, you will use bowlines and stern lines.


Fenders and fender-covers

Cleats are used to attach your docking lines.

 Docking accessories


Three main types of construction dock lines

3-strand twisted dock lines

Mega braid nylon

Double braid nylon


How to tie your boat to the dock:

Boats are tied to the dock, a term known as "Made fast" "with a set of 4 dock lines:


Run from the bow (front of the boat) to the dock. One line required

Stern line: 

Run from the boat's stern (back of the boat) to the dock. One line is required.

Bow and stern lines usually run at an angle, keeping the boat from moving side to side and keeping the boat from moving forward (fore) and backward (aft)

Spring lines: 

Two spring lines are required, and the minimum length required is as long as the boat. Spring line one runs forward from the stern. Springline two runs backward from the bow. Spring line keeps the boat from moving backward and forward.



Tie your boat to docks stern line, spring line and bow lines



Strong boating knots to secure your boat


Cleat Hitch

A cleat hitch knot is one of the first knots you will learn; it is a strong knot and easy to tie and untie. You will use the cleat hitch method to tie a rope/line to the cleat on the dock.

The knot must form the number eight-shaped pattern. Take the rope/line and bring the rope around the cleat's base (bottom of the cleat), now bring the line over the top of the cleat. Take the line back under the arm of the cleat opposite the first turn, then back over the top of the cleat.

Keep in mind the number eight, which is the pattern you need to form. Repeat: take the line back under the cleat's arm opposite the first turn, then back over the top of the cleat; you should now see the number eight pattern around the cleat. The final step; form an underhand loop, slip the loop over the cleat's arm, pull the free end of the line tight, and secure the knot.


Clove hitch


Clove Hitch

The clove hitch is considered an essential knot; it consists of two half hitches around an object and is used to secure devices on fixed rails or posts like fenders and pilings on a boat dock. It is a good binding knot easy to tie and untie.

Please take the free end of a rope and wrap around the rail or pole, now crossover the rope/line itself and wrap around the rail or post for a second time, slip the working end (working part, active in tying the knot) under the last wrap, and pull tight.


Clove hitch


Two Half Hitches (double half hitch)

This knot is a binding knot; you use the knot to secure the line's end after tying a different knot. Two half hitches form a clove hitch; the double half hitch is an overhand knot followed by the half hitch.

Wrap the rope around the support (pilling), forming a loop, pass the end through the loop, wrap it around the standing part, creating a second loop; now pull tight to complete.


double half hitch

Bow line

The bow line knot is easy to tie and untie; you use it to secure a line to a pilling or to attach two lines together. It is called a bowline because of its use for tying a loop in a mooring line and tying the boat's bow to the dock. The bowline knot is straightforward to tie:

  • First, create a small loop/circle.
  • Make a half twist with the rope to create the loop.
  • Bring the end of the line up through the loop, then back around the longer length of rope, and back down the loop.


One way to remember the bowline knot is with this old saying: The end of the rope is a rabbit. The rabbit goes out of its hole, around the tree, and down the hole again.




Figure Eight / Stopper Knot

This knot, also known as a stopper knot, is one of the most common stopper knots; the knot looks like figure eight. You use the knot to secure a boat to a boat dock or other mooring locations.

The knot is useful for stopping ropes/lines from passing through something by forming a secure loop at the end of the line. Rock climbers also use this knot to hold their gear during a climb.

Start by forming a loop: take the end of the rope/line over the mainline, continue under and around the standing end and pass it back through the loop to complete.


figure eight knot

Docking and tying your boat to the docks are easy to learn, follow the guidelines, practice and you will become a master! What knot do you use to secure your boat? Would you like to share a video on how to dock your boat? Leave a comment below!


Largest marine dealer  Marine Supplies US find all boat accessories you need, and make your docking experience easy!


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