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Securing Boats


Most of our charterers are doing a great job of properly securing the boats at the end of the sail.  This becomes even more important during the fall and winter months when the harbor can experience strong surge due to storms offshore. The surge really moves the boats around in their slips and puts added loads on dock lines and increases chafe on both lines and boat cleats. So, here’s a refresher on how to properly secure the vessel after your sail.

There are two sets of lines used to secure the boat to the dock-“bow” and “stern” lines, which secure the bow and stern, respectively, keeping the boat parallel to the dock; and, “spring” lines which keep the boat from moving forward and aft in the slip. Both sets of lines need to be properly rigged to secure the boat.
1. Once in the slip, or at the end tie, adjust the bow and stern lines so that the boat is lying parallel to the side of the dock. It’s common to find a boat with the bow pulled in much too close to the dock and the stern too far away. To help get the boat lying parallel, visualize a line cutting through the boat at the beam from port to starboard. This line should form a 90* angle with the dock. Stand well in front of the boat where you can better see the alignment and direct your crew to adjust the bow and stern lines until you’ve achieved this 90* angle.

Secure the bow and stern lines to the dock cleats with a cleat hitch (refer to Sailing Fundamentals or Cruising Fundamentals to review the proper way to tie a cleat hitch).

2. Now, for the spring lines. These are the most critical lines for combating the “dark side” of the surge force. Most of the boats in the PY&S fleet have continuous dock lines, which serve as both bow/stern lines and spring lines. Once the bow and stern lines are cleated, run a turn under the dock cleat before leading it forward or aft to secure to the boat as the spring lines (this turn under the cleat will prevent your nice neat cleat hitch from pulling off the cleat). Now, where do we attach the spring lines to the boat? Ideally, we’d lead the line to a mid-ship cleat on the boat’s side deck and secure it with a cleat hitch. Unfortunately, most of our boats don’t have mid-ship cleats. So, the next best place is to the chain plates (those big hunks of stainless steel sticking up out of the side deck to which the shrouds are attached). Use a round turn and two half hitches (again, check Sailing or Cruising Fundamentals for the proper way to tie this knot) to secure both the forward and aft spring lines. And, what’s the part of the boat we NEVER tie the spring lines to? Right, the stanchions! Stanchions are not made to withstand the loads produced by the boat moving forward and aft. The bases will loosen allowing water to find its way into the deck’s core, or the stanchion will bend or pull out of the deck-all very bad things!

3. Lastly, let’s make sure the fenders are in the right place and are secured properly. Fenders should be placed at or near the beam of the boat. If the boat is tied up parallel to the dock (remember how we were very careful to adjust the boat’s orientation to the dock a couple of paragraphs ago?) the beam of the boat is where it will make contact. Typically, two or three fenders are attached to the boat, two-to-three feet apart along the beam. The fenders should be adjusted so that the top of the fender is about three-to-four inches above the edge of the dock. Now, where to tie these guys?
Rather than tying the fender line to the bear lifeline, try to find a stanchion close to where you want to position the fenders. Lead the fender line around the top of the stanchion and tie a clove hitch around the lifeline on one side of the stanchion. This way the stanchion is taking most of the load rather than the lifeline itself. Your knot will stay tight and the fender will stay at the proper height.

4. By following these simple guidelines you’ll help reduce the wear and tear on boats and dock lines and, you’ll be the envy of other charterers by exhibiting good seamanship.