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  • Writer's pictureDoug Dunmire

I Like a Spring Line


Good use of a spring-line makes docking so much easier. One line from the midship led aft to a cleat on the dock and all docking drama is over.

Power against it once it’s made fast, and turn away from the dock, and the boat just comes slowly to the dock under full control. Nice and easy.

Keys to good docking for me:

  • Get a spring-line from the midship led aft and secured to the dock early in the docking maneuver (use the best line handler). We like doing this from the boat so none of us old folk have to jump out of the boat and hurt ourselves (we have a high freeboard boat meaning the deck is about 3 feet higher than many floating docks).

  • Stop the boat with the engine (not the spring line or any other line or method).

  • Make the spring line fast (tie it off). I once asked an experienced French speaking Canadian dockhand who’d done everything perfectly to tie off the spring line. He gave me a peculiar look, shrugged and took the line off the cleat. All he’d understood was “off”. No, no, no and he quickly cleated the line. My mistake.

  • Wait for the helmsman (usually me) to bring the boat alongside the dock by powering against the spring line and steering away from the dock. Crew can leisurely hand bow and stern lines to folk that may want to help on the dock or just wait until we come alongside.

  • Once the boat is alongside the dock, crew can easily step off a boat that is not moving and is pinned to the dock. The boat is in a static state with engine running in forward gear.

  • Bow lines and stern lines can then be secured to the dock at a leisurely pace.

  • A forward spring line can be rigged from the midship, bow or stern cleat and we’re done. Shut down the engine.

What can go wrong (most common):

  • Handing the bow line to someone on the dock who muscles the bow to the dock which pivots out our stern. There’s no way the helmsman can bring that stern back. Ugh! On our boat (14’ beam) we need to leave 6-8’ of distance between the bow center line and the dock. This often means a relatively slack bow line. A slack line seems to be something helpful dockhands can’t bear to see. Oh well. Crew needs to instruct helpful dockhands.

  • Helpful dockhands who hold the line in their hands instead of getting the line around a cleat. The helmsman (me) is so concerned with pulling them into the water that he puts his boat in neutral, begs to get the line around the cleat or back to the boat crew so at least we can come around again.

  • Dock lines rigged from the boat over our lifelines by our crew. So, so many times I can’t believe we haven’t ripped our stanchions off. There’s something about readying the lines for docking that seems to be counter intuitive for many people.

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1 Comment


Som Varma
Som Varma
May 05, 2023

Love this! Thanks for sharing your experience and tips.

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