How to Tie a Boat to a Dock

Learning how to tie a boat to a dock is one of those tasks that appear a bit tricky, but the key to doing it right is to figure out what lines are tied to what part of the boat. This knowledge can make the entire process run smoothly.

This article will help you learn a few different ways to die a boat to a dock, the types of equipment and dock line you need, what knots to know, and more.

boats parked in the docks

Things You’ll Need

The first step to tying your boat to a dock is to get all your equipment ready. You will need:

  • Stern lines to secure the stern
  • Bow lines to secure the bow
  • Spring lines, which are diagonal lines that prevent the boat from moving back and forth
  • Fenders to protect your boat sides from other boats and the dock itself
  • Breast lines to help with disembarking and boarding
  • Cleats that attach to the dock and the boat

The number of lines required typically depends on the type of dock you tie your boat to. For example, when you moor parallel to the dock, you are more likely to use a single bowline, a single stern line, and two spring lines.

If you are anchoring in a slip, you will need at least two of everything: stern lines, bowlines, and spring lines.

The approach you use needs to be tailored to suit your boat as well as the dock. This is because every docking situation is different.

If the dock is private, it is usually a great idea to simply leave the lines tied to a dock’s cleat hitch. The lines should be neatly coiled so that people don’t trip over them. This also means tying your boat to the dock will be a lot easier and faster.

If you often use a private dock and leave the dock line tied to the cleat hitch, keeping spare lines on your boat will come in handy in case you dock somewhere else. Having a second set of lines stored on the boat is good practice as lines can break, and you need to replace them. They might also be helpful when the situation requires securing the boat even further.

Want to find out the best floating pads and mats? Check out our top picks here.

How to Tie a Boat to a Dock

If your aim is to moor parallel to your dock, you will only need a single bowline and a stern line. These should be secured to the corresponding ends of your boat.

You will also need two spring lines to keep your boat from moving back and forth. These four lines should be adequate when securing your boat. However, you will need additional lines if you plan to dock for a prolonged period or you need to dock in rough conditions.

The bowline has to run from the cleat located on the bow right to the dock cleat just ahead of the boat. The same method can be used for the stern line. Run the line from the stern cleat to the dock cleat hitch behind the boat.

For the spring lines, run them between the boat dock and the boat diagonally. One line should go from your stern forward and the other from the bow backward. To do this properly, your spring lines have to cross each other in the middle.

How to Tie a Boat to a Dock Post or Piling

The most effective way to tie your boat at a dock or a slip that doesn’t have cleats is to tie off the lines to a dock post or piling. To do this, you need to make your lines lower instead of higher by slacking them a bit.

boat holding rope
Source: Pexels

There are various knots to secure a line to a boat dock post or piling. You can use a bowline knot, a clove hitch, a cleat hitch, or a round turn and two half hitches.

The most effective and common knotting method is the round turn and two half hitches because it tightly ties the line around the piling.

You could also choose to use a bowline knot, as it creates a tied loop around the dock post. This is also a secure and safe option.

The clove hitch method is not as secure as the others. But if you prefer to use it, remember to follow it with half hitches.

The cleat hitch knot is probably one of the first you will learn before docking your boat. For the cleat hitch knot, you need to tie the knot around and secure it, so it is easy to tie and untie.

How to Tie a Boat to a Dock Slip

Docking in a slip will require more lines compared to tying your boat to a dock. Most times, boats are backed into slips, and this means the dock will be on one side closer to the stern and on the bow piling. You can use lines to position a boat into a slip, making sure it doesn’t hit the dock or any other boat moored in the slip.

The first thing you will need to do is tie two bowlines. One bow line should come from the boat’s cleat on the dockside near the bow. The second bowline must be tied from the boat’s cleat on the other bow side to the piling.

Check out this Camping Travel Pillow, the perfect camping essential by Wise Owl Outfitters.

how to tie a boat to a dock

>> Check current price <<

To properly secure your boat, you will have to tie at least two spring lines, one running from the stern’s boat cleat to a dock cleat near the bow. Doing this helps you place the stern relative to the slip and keeps the boat from hitting the dock.

You will also need to tie two stern lines using the boat cleats on both sides of your stern. The stern lines should be crossed diagonally to make sure they remain in place. They should also be tied off at the opposite dock cleat ends. This helps to center the stern and stop it from moving around with the waves.

If the slip can’t fit two boats and there is a dock on all the sides, you could choose to tie your boat to them just as you normally would when mooring parallel. In this case, you will need to tie your boat on two sides, with four spring lines, two stern lines, and two bowlines.


It is very important to use the appropriate lines when tying your boat to a dock. If you are docking in a slip, you will need two stern lines, a spring line, and two bowlines. If you are mooring parallel to a dock, you will need two spring lines, a bowline, and a stern line.

Scroll to Top