When docked or anchored, all power boats and sailboats must be tied to hold them in position. It is most important to not only use the correct knots, but also use the right length and size of rope. For example, the diameter of your line should be larger for larger boats and smaller for smaller boats. Use 3/8” nylon for boats up to the low 20’s, 1/2” nylon for low 20’s to high 30’s and 5/8” nylon for 40’ plus.
You need the appropriate strength for your lines to prevent stretching and breaking. Using the wrong strength could be disasterous and damage can result. A line too light will break, while too heavy a line doesn’t allow enough elasticity causing the boat to jerk in a surge creating discomfort in the boat, as if it were tied with a chain.
One More Precaution
But, even when you use the appropriate strength and length of line and tie correctly; there is one other important precaution you need to take.
Obviously the ends of your dock or anchor lines are going to be tied at both ends to cleats, bollards, trees or bolders. But, if any part of the line in between the ends rubs on the chocks, deck edge, dock edge, rocks or anything else, your boat could be in peril!
Most older boats have chocks at the deck edge to guide the line from the centre bow cleat. They hold the line, so it doesn’t rub back and forth on the deck edge. This rubbing can both damage the deck edge finish and wear the rope through. Sometimes, the chock itself wears through the rope in a wind storm, where the boat is surging back and forth—especially if the line is running at the wrong angle or too tight.
Some newer boats don’t have chocks. They either have just centre cleats and an unprotected deck edge or a pair of deck edge cleats. In either case, your line could rub on the deck edge causing wear to the line and the deck finish.
On the other end of the line, you have potential wear spots where the dock line runs up over a concrete or timber edge to a cleat or bollard, that was originally installed for ships and larger yachts. This is common on an old wharf and as a result when your boat is below the dock, your dock line rubs and wears on the dock edge.
If you are tying to an island and your long mooring line is routed up and over a rocky surface, wear and tear on the line is inevitable. The rock surface will act like sandpaper on the line and grind its way through. A broken mooring line means trouble.
So, it is most important to protect your lines! There are lots of solutions—some you can buy and others you can create in advance and others you can create on the spot. Check with your local marina or marine supply store for line protection products. Or, create your own.
A simple solution to chock chafing is commercially made leather sleeves or home-made leather sleeves made from old leather glove cuffs, old leather boots, even old rubber boots. We’ve even seen boats using a length of garden hose placed over the dock line and positioned at the chock or wear spot.
For that dock edge or rock surface, I’ve created line protectors using 1 1/2” PVC piping and 2”x4”s. I start by cutting the PVC into approximately one foot lengths, then cutting away the top third along the length. I file the cut edge smooth to create a trough, so I can drop the lines into the PVC without having to feed a long mooring line through the pipe. To hold the PVC in place, I screw it to a one foot piece of 2”x4” at right angles. This creates a protector that looks like an “X” as shown in the picture. The wood has enough friction that it never moves on the rocks and the PVC is smooth enough that the rope can slip back and forth in it without any damage.
Here’s a few temporary solutions you can create on the spot, if you don’t go prepared. Squash a pop can or two around the line at the wear spot. You’ll be surprised how fast the aluminum can wears through, so be prepared to replace it. Another solution is to route your line on the rock or dock over a soft piece of lumber, firewood, carpet or anything else soft and slippery that is laying around the area. You want something smooth and slippery for the rope, yet strong and wear resistant on the bottom.
Leave Your Boat Protected
There is always movement of the water and, therefore, the boat. Where there’s movement, there is stretching and contracting of lines and wherever there is a friction point, lines wear through—unless they are protected.
When you secure your boat, make sure your lines are not only tied correctly using the right length and strength of rope; but also protected at all wear spots—anywhere the rope comes in contact with a hard and/or rough surface.