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How To Tie A Boat To A Dock

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Learning how to tie a boat to a dock can be challenging, especially if you’re new to boating. But it doesn’t have to be difficult with the right knowledge and practice. With our helpful tips and tricks, tying up at the dock will become second nature in no time!

We’ll cover everything from the materials you need for the job, as well as various techniques on how best to secure your vessel in place for an enjoyable day out on the water.

How To Tie A Boat To A Dock
How To Tie A Boat To A Dock

Knowing how to tie a boat to a dock is a must if you want to keep your watercraft safe and secure while you’re away. It’s a basic skill that boat owners should learn.

If you’re a newbie or someone who needs a little refresher, here is a guide on how to properly tie a boat to a dock.

Preparing Your Boats For Docking

Before learning how to tie a boat to a dock make sure that you equip your boats with everything it needs for a safe docking. Make sure you check the following equipment so you’re always prepared and ready for docking.

  • Cleats– These are fixtures that are found around the edge of the boat and are used to secure boats to the docks. Ideally, cleats should be sturdy, corrosion-resistant, and are securely attached to your boats. For boats that don’t have cleats attached, there are a wide variety of cleats on the market that are super easy to install on your boats.
  • Ropes– Don’t forget to bring strong nylon ropes which you will use to tie your boats to the dock. A double braid or three-strand line nylon rope is ideal for boat docking.
  • Boat Fenders– Protect your boats so it doesn’t get damaged while docking. Fenders are placed around the boat so it doesn’t hit the docks and also protects your boat when it hits another boat.

Plan Your Approach When Docking

Life on the water can be easy if you know simple boating hacks like this one. For correct and safe docking here is a great video to help you properly plan your approach when docking.

How To Tie A Boat To A Dock

Learning and practicing a few different knot techniques you’ll be able to tie your boats securely in no time. Make sure you follow these easy steps so you will not get your brains all tangled up in the process.

The Cleat Hitch

This is the most common technique that boaters use when tying their boat to a dock. It is fairly simple and strong enough to hold your boats if it’s done correctly. Here’s how it is done 

  1. Wrap the rope around the base of the cleat once then bring the line over the top. 
  2. Wrap the line back under the arm of the cleat opposite the first turn that you made, then put the line back over the top of the cleat.
  3. Wrap the line under the first arm again and back again over the top of the cleat forming a figure 8 pattern over and around the cleat. Next is form an underhand loop and slip that loop over the arm of the cleat you started with. This secures and creates a firm hold restraining the free end under the last wrap.
  4. Pull the free end tightly to create a neat and secured cleat hitch.

Here is an example of a cleat hitch. 

Clove Hitch Knot Technique

Sometimes there will be no cleats on the docks, but don’t you worry because you can also tie your boats on the pilings around using the clove knot technique. This is also easy to tie and untie making it a good choice when docking

  1. Wrap the loose end of the line around the post
  2. Crossover itself and wrap the free end around the post again.
  3. Slip working end under the last wrap.
  4. Pull the knot tight.
How To Tie A Boat To A Dock

Pile Hitch

Aside from the clove hitch, you can also use a pile hitch to tie your boats to a piling. 

  1. Double end of a line into a loop and wrap around the piling from front to back.
  2. Cross over standing lines and slide open end of the loop over the top of post.
  3. Pull the knot tightly.


Another knot that comes in handy not only when securing a line to a piling, it can also be used to attach two lines together. This knot is strong, secured, and is super easy to undo when you want to go out and have a quick boat ride again.

  1. Make a small loop a few feet from the end, then pass the end of the line to the loop that you have made.
  2. Wrap the end of the line around the main loop above the loop, turn the end back down, and pass it back down through the loop.
  3. Pull the end of the line tightly and on the mainline above the loop you’ve created for a tight and secured knot.

Here is an example of how it is done.

Figure Eight Knot

The figure-eight knot is one of the toughest knots forming a secure, non-slip loop at the end of a rope. It is also one of the most commonly used knot technique by mountain climbers. 

  1. Tie a single eight in the rope two feet from its end. 
  2. Retrace the original eight with the free end and leave a loop at the bottom with your desired size.
  3. Pull all of the four strands of rope to tighten and secure the knot.

Is it better to tie a boat tight or loose?

When it comes to tying a boat, there is no one-size-fits-all answer as the best approach depends on the boat’s location and surrounding environment. 

The choice between tying the boat tight or loose depends on several variables, including the type of mooring used (fixed or floating), the strength of the line used, and the movements of the boat in the pen.

When tying a boat to a fixed marina, it is important to factor in the tide and allow for extra slack during periods of high tides. This will reduce strain on the attachment points both on the dock and, more importantly, on the boat itself.

How To Tie A Boat To A Dock
How To Tie A Boat To A Dock

The type of line used is also important to consider when tying a boat, as it can affect the amount of tension applied on the attachment points.

Ideally, it is best to use a strong line that has some stretch so that the boat has a little freedom of movement in the pen but not enough for any part of the boat to touch any other parts of the marina. This will reduce the chance of damage to both the boat and the dock.

In conclusion, choosing between tying a boat tight or loose depends on several variables and should be adjusted accordingly in order to achieve optimal results.

Pontoon Boat Accessories

Pontoon boats are a great way to have some outdoor family fun on the lake or a party with friends out on the open sea. Check out these practical must-have pontoon boat accessories to add to your boat for smooth sailing.

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