Page 36 - 48º North - The Sailing Magazine - December 2017
P. 36

Leave your Boat
For The Holidays
By Alex and Jack Wilken
As winter deepens and the storms worsen, leaving our boats at the dock requires more care. With the upcoming holidays, many of us will be doing just that - leaving our boats during the stormiest part of the year. Years of trial and error, have led us to discover details that may aid you in this process - tips for tying up the boat and securing its gear for a big blow or an extended unsupervised time at the dock.
Where you tie up your boat, if you have a choice, is the first consideration in a big blow. You want the most protected slip with a dock of medium height for easy fender contact and the best line attachment options available. If you can tie the boat away from the dock, as well, so much the better (Fig. 1). Wherever you tie up the boat, consider the orientation in the slip. If possible, keep the bow into the wind.
Dock line placement is the foundation of a secure boat tie. Any line prevents movement beyond its tied length, but each line attached to the boat can only prevent the part of the boat it is attached to from moving farther away (Figure 1). With this in mind, assume it takes at least four lines to secure a boat in its slip. If you have a side tie, you want to have one bow line and one stern line going from their respective cleats to the dock at something close to 90° to the dock. These lines are only trying to keep
the bow and stern respectively from moving farther from the cleats on the dock they are attached to. You will also need 2 spring lines, one fore and one aft. Each spring line is only preventing the boat from moving farther forward or aft in the slip respectively. You have two options on where to attach the spring lines to the boat. You can either take them from a center cleat on the boat to a cleat fore or aft on the dock, or from the bow and stern cleats on the boat to a central cleat on the dock. If you have the option to secure your boat from the other side, you can mirror this process (Figure 1).
You would like the angle of the line to the dock to be as shallow as possible. The problem line in this respect is often the stern line, which tends to be more vertical than horizontal (Fig. 2). One option to deal with this is to tie to the opposite side of the dock. This will create a trip hazard, so you want to clearly mark the line and not leave it this way for an extended time to prevent someone tripping over it. Alternatively, you can bring the bow in and let the stern out to even up the angle of the two lines, but this will worsen the angle of the bow line and change the contact point of the boat to the dock.
Another consideration in placement is that the longer a line is, the more it will stretch and absorb shock. For this reason, it is better to tie
normally; again, as long as the lead works. If you can cleanly lead the line it stretches more and improves the angle.
Shock absorption is of great importance to reduce strain on both dock lines and cleats. There is a reason we don’t use steel cable to secure our boats. Many years ago, we were in a hurricane in Palma de Majorca (Spain) and got caught against a concrete dock with each wave picking the boat up and ramming it into the dock bow first. In an attempt to keep the boat from building up so much momentum, we took the anchor chain and wrapped it around two of the steel bollards that were bolted into the cement. In less than an hour the bollards were ripped right out of the dock.
Using nylon lines that will stretch means the line itself is a shock absorber. Three-strand nylon will stretch more than double-braid. There are also shock absorbers, like rubber snubbers, that can be added to the line to reduce shock load. As mentioned above, the longer the line, the more it will stretch, so try not to short tie. For more on dock lines, refer to our article about them in the September 2014 issue of 48° North.
Chafing is the leading cause of line failure. Unfortunately, the more a line stretches, the more it will chafe. Double-braid nylon will resist chafe more than three-strand, but it has been known to loosen itself when constantly loaded and slacked. Three-strand not only provides more shock load, but will tighten itself down under load cycles. Line that is more chafe prone can be mitigated in many ways. One of the simplest is to slide PVC hose over the line and tie it in place. There are also many purpose-built leather and cloth chafe guard options. If you are expecting a heavy blow, you can double up on chafe protection, placing a larger chafe guard over the one around the line or a fender underneath it (Fig. 2).
You don’t want the boat snapping against its lines. To prevent this, tie the lines loose enough so that the boat has some room to move. The water itself is a great shock absorber, so if the boat has a few feet to move back and forth without its lines always being stretched, the resistance of the water will slow it down somewhat.
If you want to double up your lines in case of one breaking, keep them at
Fig. 1: Bow line, A. Stern line, B. Forward spring line, C. Aft spring line, D. The left most boat is tied away from the dock. The forward spring line on the middle boat is tied from the aft cleat on the boat all the way to the forward most cleat on the dock for more stretch.
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spring lines to a farther cleat. For example, it may be preferable to tie the aft spring line from the stern cleat to a dock cleat near the bow instead of one amidships (Figure 1). You can do the same with the forward spring line, provided it does not chafe on the hull. The stern line is normally the shortest line. You can lengthen it by tying it to the opposite cleat on the boat and leading it through the same chock as you would
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