How to tie up a boat

How to tie a boat to the dock

To many avid boaters out there this might seem like an obvious question but for those who are new to sailing and/or guests looking to help out their fellow skippers as novice crew, it could prove useful to look up handy tips on how to tie a boat to a dock so you can be of help when the time comes.

Every boater should know how to safely tie their boat to a dock, but beyond that, it's important your friends and family know as well, that way if there is an emergency whilst cruising you'll be able to rely on them for assistance.

Using a cleat hitch on a dock cleat

Most pontoons at marinas will have hardware on the pontoon called cleats that you can tie your boat to. The cleat hitch is the most common way to tie a boat to a dock. First, ensure your rope is securely tied to your boat, pass the rope through a fairlead (ensuring you keep the rope on the outside of the guard rail) and prepare to pass it ashore. Once ashore find a sturdy dock cleat to tie to. Run a line or rope around the dock cleat horns a few times before making an underhand loop in the line to slip over the last horn. The cleat hitch diagram below explains in visual detail.

Tying your boat up to a ring

Some docks will not have the luxury of cleats and may have rings instead. In instances such as this, we have an easy method for you to follow.

  1. Pull some rope through the ring to make a small loop.
  2. Take the loose end and pass that through the small loop, pulling through more rope.
  3. Loop this around the line passing from the boat, twice.

This one is a little tricky to write, so here is a video

Executing the pile hitch

What should you do when there are no cleats or rings?

If you don't have a dock, you can tie your boat to a piling. To do this you can make a "Pile Hitch". To do this:

  1. Form a bite at the end of your rope.
  2. Wrap the bite around your post, pass the loop underneath itself and then back over the post.

Here's a quick how-to video on how to do it.

This is mainly useful if the piling is low enough to pass the rope over the top of it. If the pile is too high you may need something more like this.

Boat to a pile mooring

First, find a sturdy piling to tie to. Next, run a line or rope around the piling. Make a loop in the line and put it over the boat's bow. Finally, pull the line tight and tie a knot in it.

Round turn and two half hitches.

  1. Go around the piling once or twice as low as possible
  2. Then add a half hitch by going back around the standing part of the line and pulling it all the way through
  3. After that, you need to add a second half hitch to avoid the rope coming loose

The good thing about this is that it enables you to depart quickly. If you don't pull the line all the way through on your second hitch you can easily pull the loose end which turns it into a quick-release knot.

Here is a great video explaining the Piling methods along with some knots to use.

Tying up at the dock videos

We all know it can be easier to watch a demonstration than read how to do things. So here are some handy videos that will get you on your way to securely tying up your boat.

How to tie your boat up securely and safely with Motor Boat & Yachting

How to tie a boat to a dock with Len

If you need some assistance on boating knots, we have a great article here for you - a guide to boat knots

The best dock line handler ever?

We thought it would be cool to end on a fun note. So once you've got docking your boat down to a fine art, ask yourself? Could you beat this person?

This Dockmaster in the USA has some amazing dock line handling skills and great entertainment, happy practising!

savvy navvy, the boating app that brings all essential marine information together in one place. Featuring global charts, wind and weather forecasts, tidal graphs, GPS Tracking, automatic weather routing, and marina and anchorage information. It’s like Google Maps for boats.

Inspired to get on the water? Start your free trial today.