Not a Knot!

surprise“My boat slowly and smoothly slid into my slip alongside the dock as it always does. I have perfected your FLIPP Line™ procedure and docking is easy for me and my First Mate. She attaches the FLIPP Line™ and we are secure. I can count on her.” Explained Dan.

“However, today was different. My First Mate wasn’t with me, but my son-in-law insisted he knew how to tie the FLIPP Line™, so I let him do it. My son-in-law jumped onto the dock, secured the Stern FLIPP Line™, then let me know I was secure” continued Dan.

“As the boat edged deeper into the slip, the boat pulled the FLIPP Line™ off the dock cleat. The boat crunched against the main walkway.

Why? What happened?” asked Dan in surprise and shock.

Dan told us “When we investigated the problem, we learned that my eager son-in-law had only looped the line around the far horn of the cleat (which became the near horn as the boat passed it) and the boat just pulled the line off the cleat! He was so embarrassed he wanted to disappear between the boards on the dock when he saw the damage to the boat. Those in the marina who had been praising my great docking skills were now looking down their noses at this terrible screw up.”

Lesson Learned

“Now, I don’t take anyone’s word—not even my son-in-law. I make sure I show them the correct way to tie knots and how to handle my lines. I don’t want a repeat of today—especially if it is windy.”

Poor damaged Dan. He learned the hard way. Guests are usually eager to help but sometimes overstate their ability. Captains need to know exactly what their crew are going to do, not what they say they are going to do. What happened to Dan has happened to so many Captains. It is important to teach each family member, crew and guest who is going to handle the lines, the correct procedure and the correct knots and how to use them to avoid docking screw ups.

Even experienced boaters may do things differently on their boats, but when they are your guests or crew, they need to follow your procedure on your boat—so you both know what the other is doing.

What happened here is as follows:

Dan’s slip is longer than his boat. When his son-in-law said the boat was secure, Dan assumed it was tied. Had he known that it wasn’t tied, he could have aborted and reversed to stop his forward motion. In this case, he was trying to pull against the stern line to bring his bow to the dock against the wind. This is the procedure he and his First Mate had perfected.

 Cleat A The boat’s stern cleat is approaching from the left to the right.

The son-in-law hooks the stern dock line underneath the “far horn” which is actually the “near horn” once the boat’s transom passes the cleat.

 Cleat B As the boat’s transom passes the cleat, the dock line slips off the
horn. (now the near horn)
 Cleat C As the boat proceeds deeper into the slip, the dock line is off the
cleat and the boat is not secure and continues deeper into the slip.

What should have happened here is as follows:

Cleat D The boat’s transom is still travelling from left to right and in this photo, has just passed the cleat.

Dan’s son-in-law should have anticipated which horn was going to be the far horn once the boat was fully into the slip.

He should have hooked under it first.

 Cleat E Then he should have quickly passed the line around the other horn.
 Cleat F He should have topped it off by tying a figure eight cleat hitch.

As Captain, Dan was counting on the stern corner being secure and fixed to this cleat, for his docking procedure.

It is easy to mistakenly pass the line round the wrong horn when the boat is still moving towards the cleat.
The near horn quickly becomes the far horn as the boat travels past the cleat.
You need to have the line around the correct horn of the cleat to prevent the line from slipping off.

That afternoon, Dan felt like keelhauling his son-in-law, but patiently sat down and taught him how to tie his knots and handle the lines.

When all your family, crew and guests know how to handle the lines and tie knots correctly, you can dock without incident preventing damage to the boat, loss of fenders and embarrassment.

Download and print out “Tying and Using Knots” e-Lesson for complete step-by-step instructions, photos and videos.

It’s the cheapest, and best way to save relationships, avoid damage to your boat, replace embarrassment with confidence and put the fun back in boating.

We’d like to thank Dan for sharing his story.

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