BOAT HANDLING TECHNIQUES BY GREG JONES
NO-DRAMA DOCKING WITH SPRING LINES
You don’t need a bow thruster to gracefully bring your boat alongside or to leave the dock,
you just need to master the use of spring lines
perfect when it
comes to using
MOST BOATERS use spring lines when tied up to the dock to limit fore-and-aft movement, but that’s not all they’re good for. They can also be used to take much of the drama out of docking and to help you get into or out of a tight space with ease. Once you grasp the few principles involved, you’ll be able to use the force of
the prop to pivot the boat around the spring line. Even in contrary currents or with
a wind blowing you onto the dock, it all comes down to balancing opposing forces.
SPRING LINE BASICS
Spring lines run diagonally forward or aft from the boat at a shallow enough angle to limit
the boat’s fore-and-aft movement. Sounds simple enough, but spring-line terminology can be
confusing. A forward spring line is tied to the dock forward of where it is tied to the boat; it
stops the boat from moving aft. An aft spring line stops the boat from moving forward, and
it’s tied to a point on the dock aft of where the line is attached to the boat. Whatever cleat on
the boat the spring line is attached to will become the pivot point for your maneuvers. Spring
lines can be attached at the bow, at the stern,
or in the middle of the boat, at the midship
or spring cleats. The force of the prop against
the spring line will cause the boat to rotate
around that pivot point.
Don’t expect your first few attempts to go
smoothly. Docking well does take practice.
But the following tips could help you avoid
some of the more common problems people
run into when they first try getting on and
leaving a dock using spring lines.
■ Check your cleats. Your boat’s cleats
need to be properly sized and securely
attached. At a minimum you need four
cleats, one on each side of the bow and
stern. Midship cleats are very useful,
especially on boats over 20 feet in length.
If your boat lacks them, installing a pair
(backed properly) is a simple upgrade.
■ Your spring lines should be as long
as the boat, plus a few feet. They
should be made of nylon, which stretches
under tension to reduce shock loads, and
large enough to grasp easily.
■ When leaving a dock, double the
spring line back to the boat. When
you’re getting ready to cast off, take the
spring line off the dock cleat and run it
around the base of the cleat before bringing the bitter end back onboard. Cleat off
the end or hand it to the crew member
who’ll be in charge of that line. When the
time comes to release the line, no one
needs to be on the dock. A crew member
need only release the bitter end and pull
the line aboard as quickly as possible.
ILLUSTRATIONS: @2013 MIRTO ART STUDIOS
■ Make prop walk work for you. Most
boats have right-handed props (when
looking at the propeller from the stern, it