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How to Tie a Boat to a Dock Post in the Most Secure Way?

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how to tie a boat to a dock post

One of the basic boating skills is tying up a boat when it is not in use. You can’t just randomly tie a knot and leave the vessel unsecured, rocking back and forth on the water. On a stormy day or rough water, a loosely-tied boat can drift away. It took me a while to figure out the most quick and effective way to tie my boat to the dock.

In short, determine whether you want to dock the boat for a short or long period. Then, set up the dock lines accordingly. For a short stop, you only need one rope to connect the boat stern, middle part, and front to the dock. For a longer stop, you will need two pieces of rope to secure the boat stern and bow. You can use a simple knot, cleat hitch, or clove hitch for boat slips.

In this article, besides explaining how to tie a boat to a dock post, I will give somes tips on buying and placing fenders to further protect your boat. Let’s explore!

Table of Contents

What You Will Need


Tie a boat to a dock securely must be done with proper gear and accessories. Before you head out to a grand boating adventure, gather the following for docking when you get back.

Boat cleats

Cleats are T-shaped metal pieces that are typically designed to make tying boats to docks easier. They can be found on the sides of your boats in various sizes. Boat cleats are usually made from anti-rust materials like nylon, galvanized steel, stainless steel, wood, or aluminum.

If you can’t find cleats on your boats, check the manual instructions. Some vessels don’t come with cleats. But it is simple to install them. Here is a quick guide to buy and cleats:

  • Materials: Nylon, wooden, and aluminum cleats are recommended for low weight capacity vessels because they are lighter. Wooden cleats can offer a vintage and pleasant look to a boat but are quite vulnerable to corrosion. In general, aluminum and nylon are more durable. If you are looking for cleats to use on a houseboat, nylon is a great option. The material will eliminate noises caused by friction so you can enjoy quieter time on board.
  • For larger or heavier vessels, aluminum and wooden cleats are not recommended because they can’t hold the boat as strongly as other heavy-duty materials. Stainless or galvanized steel offers the highest level of corrosion resistance and strength. If you are not sure which materials to choose, go for stainless steel.
  • Sizes: Cleats come in numerous sizes. The cleat size depends on the length of the nylon rope from the cleat to the dock post. The longer the line, the larger the cleats. Later in this article, we will provide two ways to set up the dock lines: temporary or long-term slips. Keep reading to choose which one you will execute. Then, buy the cleat sizes accordingly.
  • Cleat positions: Install cleats evenly on the boat sides. As you rely on them to keep the boat safe and secure, the more cleats the better. However, too many can tangle the lines and be time-consuming. We recommend at least five cleats, one at the bow, and two on each side of the boat.

In addition, on the pier or dock you’re about to moor, there must be cleats or pilings so you have a place to tie the boat to. Pilings are wood or metal pillars. They are more secure than cleats. Most marina owners install pilings to their dock posts. But if there are none on your post, you must install at least two of them. Make sure their distance is larger than your boat length.

You can check this guide to know how to tie a boat to a cleat as well.

Boat fenders

Boat fenders or bumpers act as a cushion layer between the hull and hard surfaces like the dock or rocks, keeping the boat scratch and damage-free. If you don’t have bumpers, we highly recommend investing in them. They are a must to keep your vessel at its top shape, maintaining the boat value if you intend to sell or trade it in the future.

Nylon rope

Similar to anchor lines, nylon is the best choice for dock lines due to its sturdy and stretchy nature. A double braid or three-strand line will get the job done. If you intend to dock the boat for a long time, use chafe guards or galvanized shackles to strengthen the nylon rope.

Steps to Tie Up a Boat to a Dock


Step 1: Placing the boat fenders

The harsher the mooring conditions, the larger the bumpers you need. If your boat is tied to the dock at a small, quiet lake, you won’t need large fenders. But if your boat is docked at bustle, narrow marinas where waves often get rough, you should size them up.

Once you’ve got the fenders you desire, use the following steps to place them:

  • Don’t just tie the fenders randomly. Instead, hang them so that the bottoms touch the water’s surface, then raise about two inches.
  • Only tie fenders to a solid point on your boat that is not made to handle any stress, like a cleat or station.
  • If the dock usually has strong wind, place fenders as low as possible to limit swing from sea wind.

Step 2: Setting up the dock lines

Now that all is set, roll out the nylon rope and start setting up the dock lines.

For a short stop

Firstly, connect it to the piling or cleat on the dock that is near the stern and loop the rope around the cleat at the back. After that, continue by tying it around the cleat at the middle of the boat side.

Then, extend the rope to the dock cleat or piling near the boat bow and attach it there. In the photo, two nylon ropes are used, but you don’t have to. Working with one line is secure enough. Finally, attach it to the cleat at the top of your vessel.

For a longer stop

To tie up a boat to a dock for a longer period like leaving it on the water overnight, the procedure is different. Firstly, chop the nylon rope into two equal pieces. Use one to attach the boat bow to the dock cleat or piling, and the other one to connect the stern to the dock cleat or piling. Make sure the dock lines stay in place by:

  • Double the line for more rope strength.
  • Measure the rope length you need before chopping to ensure it won’t be too long and touch the water. Once the rope is soaked, it can hold down a boat.

Step 3: Securing the dock lines

There are many ways to make boating knots, each has their own advantages and disadvantages.

A simple cleat knot

Start by wrapping the rope around the cleat, from the top to bottom. Then, continue wrapping the rope around the cleat once more, this time from the bottom to the top. Finally, tug the rope tightly to secure it. This simple knot is easy and quick but might not be enough on rough water days.

A cleat hitch

One of the most popular ways to tie up a boat is the cleat hitch. You can see in the picture below.

It is a quick, easy, and reliable knot. Make a cleat hitch by:

  • Bring the rope to the further horn, wrap it around the near horn from the top and take it to the back.
  • From the back, pass it to the front.
  • Now, make a loop with the rope in your hand and slide it in the nearer horn.
  • Pull tightly and the hitch is completed.
  • A clove hitch

Last but not least, use a clove hitch to tie your boat to the pilings. A clove hitch allows you to tie the rope with just one hand. It is also easy to adjust without untying the knot. However, the knot might slip under harsh weather conditions. To make a clove hitch, you will need to:

  • Wrap the rope around the piling.
  • Then, wrap it around once more but this time, pass it from behind the rope.
  • Pull to tighten and the knot is completed.


We hope you’ve gathered enough information to tie your boat to the dock in the most secure way. Remember that each dock is different, adjust the dock lines and knots accordingly to get the best results. If you find the article on how to tie a boat to a dock post helpful, please feel free to share it with others. Before you leave, let us know your thoughts in the comment section. See you then!

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