Tips for tying your boat to the dock

Types of dock lines

When tying your boat to the dock, you will need to use dock lines. Dock lines reduce the boat's motion. Here are the lines you will need to use to effectively tie your boat to the dock.

  • Bow lines - keep the bow from moving side to side and also the boat from drifting off.
  • Breast lines - secure the boat from moving away from the dock.
  • Spring lines - protect the boat from moving forward and aft.
  • Stern lines - keep the stern from moving side to side and the boat from drifting off.

At the very least, you should have at least six dock lines on hand. 

Tying the cleat hitch
Some docks will have cleats to tie your lines to the dock. It is fairly easy to tie and untie. Loop the line around the base under the horns of the cleat until it crosses over itself. Make a figure 8 over the two horns. Then turn the line under itself to make a half hitch. Pull it taut. You will likely have left over line. Do not keep wrapping it around the cleat as your boat is already secure. Leave it next to the cleat.

Tying to a piling
A piling is a wood or metal post driven into the bottom of the body of water. They can be standalone or attached to the dock.  Wrap the line around the piling two or three times. To secure it, make one round turn and two half hitches.

Tying to a bull railing
Docks may have bull rails for tying up boats. To tie your boat to the bull rail pass the line first under the rail. This makes it easier to untie. To secure the line, make one round turn and two half hitches.

Another point to note, is if you dock your boat to a fixed dock, you should allow for some slack for the rising and falling tides in coastal areas (this is usually not a factor at floating docks).

We hope these tips help you tie your boat to the dock safely and properly. For further protection on the water, Markel boat insurance offers specialized boat insurance that protects you if you become legally liable for someone else’s injuries or property damage due to a boating accident.  In addition, Markel boat insurance also offers protection to help cover the cost to repair or replace your boat in the event of an accident, fire, theft, or vandalism.

Find a licensed Markel Marine agent in your area, and start protecting your boat today!

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us at or your attorney if you have any questions. The article may not be linked to, copied, reproduced, republished, posted, or distributed in any way by non-policyholders of Markel®, without permission.