Tying Up Safely

Tying to the Post

by Steve Merjanian

Tying up to dock posts has a few rules that should be heeded in the interest of safety. When the boat is preparing to dock and is still in motion, grabbing the typical wood post to slow or stop the boat can result in splinters or hand injuries. Toss a line, or the loop in the end of a line, around a post and then snub the line to a deck cleat to slow the boat and stop it. Only put a half turn around the deck cleat and never wrap the line around your hand in case you have to let the line go quickly. Snubbing is done by wrapping the line under the cleat horn that is away from the post, then over the top, and under the near cleat. Just enough pressure is applied to the line to slow the boat without stopping it suddenly.

Figure #1 shows the three types of dock lines. The bow and stern lines keep the boat parallel to the dock. The spring lines hold the boat in position alongside the dock against prevailing wind and current. The breast lines keep the boat from moving laterally away from the dock. A small fishing boat can usually dock with only a bow and stern line, while the forty-foot boat may require all three types of lines.

Figure #2 shows the use of the clove hitch when tying to a post. I sometimes use three or more bights on top of the basic hitch to assure purchase when using polypropylene lines. An alternate method is to throw two or more turns around the post, then securing with a clove hitch, or two half-hitches around the standing part.

Figure #3 shows the use of loops in the ends of docking lines. The left image shows the technique of two loops on the same post that allows either loop to be removed without disturbing the other. The middle image uses an extra turn with a large loop around a small post, or a sharp up angle from post to boat cleat. The right image is another way to fasten a large loop to a small post.

Make sure you advise your crew of your intentions prior to approaching the dock. Have them repeat your commands to assure they have been understood. It sounds militaristic but it assures a safe procedure with a minimum of wasted motion. Make sure all conversation stops during docking to avoid unnecessary distraction. Whenever possible, try to enlist the help of people on the dock to catch your tossed lines and tie them to the post. In almost every case, the skipper will probably reposition his lines once he has rung down “finished with engines” to make sure his vessel is secure.