Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Don’t Let Your Boat Get Away!

July 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

dont let your boat get away 1

Do you know how to tie up your boat to a dock? Surprisingly, many skippers don’t.

BoatUS says more accidents, including sinkings, hull damage to one’s vessel or a neighbor’s, and damage to marina property, happen not when you are under way but when you didn’t adequately make your boat fast to your slip prior to going home.

Making fast to a slip depends first upon docking lines — how many and how strong.  We’re not talking the Queen Mary here but the average under 25-foot open runabout. Two lines do not make a boat safe; the absolute bare minimum is four lines (a rope is a line when it is put to use), one each at the bow and stern, and two amidships called spring lines.

The bow and stern lines keep the boat from swinging away from the dock. They should be attached to cleats on the boat — not life lines — as well as cleats on the slip. If yours is not a floating dock, allow enough slack for maximum tide level changes in your area.

Spring lines add extra insurance. They prevent a boat from surging forward or backward.  They are also attached bow and stern but then led three-quarters the length of the boat to a dockside cleat (there should be less slack so the boat can’t shift).

Some boaters add additional lines from the open side of the boat to a nearby pier or piling. If a storm is forecast, double all lines and attach some sort of chaffing gear where lines may rub against the railing or dock.

How big a line should you have? Err on the side of thickness and use a minimum of three-eighths inch for a runabout under 26 feet, one-half inch for boats up to 36 feet, and beyond that, it’s wise to check the manufacturer’s specifications. Many long-time boaters also prefer three-strand rope. If you don’t know how to splice, buy rope with a loop or eye splice at one end. Only use nylon rope, as it has the best combination of strength and stretch.

Docking lines are never fastened with a knot; they should be crisscrossed on a cleat. In an emergency, you might not be able to untie a taut line. Don’t tie two ropes together either, as a knot weakens the breaking point of the rope.

Bumpers or fenders are a second defense against damage, and because good ones are expensive, economy-minded owners buy them too small and too few. Four bumpers are the absolute minimum.  Measure your onboard storage locker and purchase the biggest fenders that will fit. Tie them off cleats, not lifelines or railings.

Mark Twain once observed that too much whiskey is barely enough. So it is with the number of ropes and fenders aboard a boat.

By William C. Winslow

The author is the Division 5 – Staff Officer Public Affairs, First District Southern Region, for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the all-volunteer, non-military arm of the Coast Guard, teaching boating safety education and conducting search and rescue operations. Visit http://cgaux.org/ to join the Auxiliary or for class information.

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