to be heroes and risk injury if something
goes awry. Now then, here’s how to do it.
Leaving bow first (FIG. 1)
Let’s assume you want to leave the dock
bow first in the situation described above.
Tie off the forward spring line to the aft
cleat, then double it up around a very
strong cleat or piling on the dock that’s
aft of the bow of the boat. How far aft
will depend on your boat’s characteristics
and circumstances, such as wind strength
and the proximity of other boats.
Cleats on docks and boats can be
lethal weapons if they come loose. Check
them carefully before creating this extra
stress. It’s sometimes safer and easier
to wrap the line around a piling on the
dock, not around a dock cleat. Take one
turn only around the cleat on the boat
with the bitter (free) end so it can be
1. Get one crew member to cast off
the forward docklines and be ready with
a fender in case you get too close to the
boat in front. Get another crew member
to cast off the stern line, leaving just the
forward spring in position. The aft crew
should also have a fender to protect the
rear corner of the boat.
2. Slowly put the engine in reverse
with the rudder centered until tension
is taken up on the forward spring line.
Turn the wheel or move the tiller until
the rudder is pointed toward the dock.
Get your crew to put a fender between
the dock and the boat. Apply a little more reverse throttle, and the bow
should start to swing out, away from the
dock. With the bitter end of the line
around the cleat, the aft crew will be
able keep tension on the spring line and
monitor the position of the fender and
boat so the boat is protected.
3. When the boat is pointing so that
it will well clear the boat ahead, shift to
forward and move the rudder to turn the
boat away from the dock and the boat
that’s on the dock forward of you. As the
tension comes off the spring line, have
your crew drop the bitter end and bring
the line back on board quickly so the
propeller doesn’t catch it.
As you steer away from the dock, you
may need to increase speed slightly to
get well clear. As you turn out, make sure
that your stern doesn’t turn in, clipping
the boat ahead. Have the crew ready with
the fender until you’re certain that you
won’t bump into any other boats.
Leaving stern first (FIG. 2)
There are times when it is advantageous
to leave the dock stern first, and with
some boats, this may be easier than going
out bow first.
1. Release all the lines with the excep-
tion of the stern spring. Put the engine
in gear and slowly motor forward until
the tension comes up on the spring line.
Have the bow crew position a fender
between bow and dock. Carefully steer
the boat toward the dock.
2. Increase the throttle a little, and
the stern should start to move away from
the dock, angling well out from any boat
behind you. Reposition the bow fender
as needed while keeping tension on the
3. Bring the rudder back the other
way, steering away from the dock as you
put the engine in reverse. As the spring
line goes slack, the crew on the bow
drops the bitter end and swiftly brings
the line back on board.
The crew should be ready with fenders until you’re well clear of the dock and
In either maneuver, if the wind is
strong, it’s possible that you may find
yourself sliding back toward the dock
and boats, particularly if you don’t
angle out enough.
your boat’s characteristics (such as its
profile above and
below the waterline, which affects
windage and resistance), you may
find your bow or
stern first moving
back into the dock
and other boats.
It helps to practice and be familiar
with your boat.
to watch a
video of this
action and to
read a discussion of other
Spring line Port
FIG. 2 LEAVING STERN FIRST