The Boating Guy: What Do I Need To Know About Docking My Boat?

Hello, I’m Keith the boating guy.

Are you ready to dock? Great! Before we get started, you need to learn the lingo. Now let’s say you have a tire swing in your backyard, you know that old tire hanging from a rope. If you take it off the rope and head down to the dock and walk it to your boat, as soon as you step on your boat that rope becomes a line. The lines that are used to tie your boat to the dock are called what? You guessed it! Dock lines.

Nylon is the most popular material for dock lines. There are a couple of reasons for this. Number one, it’s strong. Number two, it has some give and will stretch a bit as your boat rocks back and forth on the dock.

Now let’s talk about construction. There are two main types of nylon dock lines. Number one there are three strand dock lines. These tend to stretch or give quite a bit and are abrasion resistant. Then there’s braided nylon dock lines. They’re stronger, they come in lots of cool colors to match your boat, and they generally feel more substantial. Now, you may probably pay more for the braided lines; however, they tend to last longer than the three stranded lines.

Dock lines come in different sizes and lengths. Naturally, the size and length you’ll need is based on the size of your boat. For example, if your boat is less than 27 feet, your best bet is a 3/8 inch diameter inch nylon dock line. It’s about 2/3 as long as the length of your boat for bow and stern lines, and the same length as your boat for your spring lines. Naturally, dock line diameter and length will increase with the size of your boat.

If you keep your boat tied up for very long, you’ll want to protect your dock lines form chafing. This is caused by the rope rubbing back and forth against the dock. There are lots of anti-chafing products on the market. Your marine retailer can help you choose the right one for your situation.

Now that you’ve got the right dock lines, you’ll want to stop the boat from beating against the dock with fenders. Fenders are special cushions that are placed along side the boat to protect it from hitting the dock. They’re usually made from soft, inflatable plastic or closed stale foam. They also come in lots of shapes, sizes and colors. One word of caution about fenders: While it is a good idea to hang them over the side when you’re idling up to the dock, be sure to stow them before hitting the open water. Nothing says novice more than those fenders flapping in the breeze as you merrily cruise along.

Finally, don’t skip when it comes to dock lines and fenders. Your boat is a big investment and it deserves some good equipment. Well that’s all for now. Good luck and see you out in the water.

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