Docking a Boat Secrets – Can You Dock a Boat With a Single Line?

Do you know the secret to docking a boat with one line? Did you know that you can use this technique with a small sailboat or the largest super yacht? And it works on any boat every time! Use these seven steps to take your skipper-skills to new a new level today!

Tap the magic power of a spring line

Spring lines always lead in a diagonal direction from the boat. Those that are attached to the bow are called bow springs; those that are attached to the stern are called quarter springs (the “quarter” of a boat is near the stern).

Springs that lead from the bow to a dock cleat or piling aft of the bow are called after bow spring lines. Use an after bow spring line for this docking maneuver.

Seven simple steps to docking success

1. Attach a long line at least 1 1/2 times the length of your small cruising boat to a boat cleat, located between the bow and beam. Coil the spring line and hold it in your non-dominant hand. Break the coil in half and hold the part with the bitter end in the dominant hand.

2. Assign one crew member to a roving fender. Use this to cushion any point of contact during the maneuver. Rig the fender with a line attached to each end of the fender. This makes the roving fender horizontal and gives greater surface area for better protection.

3. Make your approach to the pier at an angle. Aim for a piling just aft (behind) where you want the bow to end up. Use just enough speed for good rudder control.

4. Loop the spring line around the piling or dock cleat and back to the same boat cleat. Pass a full round turn around the boat cleat. Make sure that the line handler stands forward of the cleat, facing the stern. This puts them on the safe side of the spring line.

5. Turn your sailboat wheel away from the boat dock. If you use a tiller, hold the tiller toward the dock. Keep this position throughout the maneuver.

6. Place the engine clutch into idle ahead. Keep it in this position throughout the maneuver.

7. Watch the stern “walk” in to the dock. The crew on the spring line should adjust the spring line to help the boat move in to the pier. Position the stern boat fenders to provide a cushion at the point of contact.

Once the boat lies flush to the pier, leave your wheel (or tiller) and engine in position. Do not be tempted to back off on the engine, wheel, or tiller. The combination of rudder and engine create the forces that will hold your cruising boat to the pier in even the worst weather. Now you can take your time to put out more lines or take a break.

For safety, always leave one crew member at the helm when lying alongside on a single spring line. Rotate your sailing crew ashore so that all hands get a break.

Now you know one of the best kept secrets that the pros use every day. Use these seven simple steps when docking a boat to make you master and commander of your small cruising boat in any weather.