Where is it Legal to Tie Up Your Boat When It's Not Docked?

By Debbie Hanson

Aug 07, 2019

Find out where is it legal to tie up your boat when it's not at the dock. Learn where to tie up a boat, what is a mooring buoy, and how to use a mooring buoy

If you're new to boating, you might be wondering where is it legal to tie up your boat when it's not at the dock? The answer to this question is a mooring buoy. Mooring buoys float on the water and are attached to the bottom using chains, these are the only buoys you can legally tie up to.

What color is a mooring buoy and how do you identify one from other types of buoys? Mooring buoys are white with a blue horizontal band. They usually are placed in or near marinas and other areas where boats are allowed to anchor. Mooring buoys are where to tie up a boat when you're not at the dock.

How to Use a Mooring Buoy

Follow these steps when tying your boat up to a mooring buoy:

  1. Steer the boat from a helm position that allows you to see the buoy during the entire process of hook up.
  2. Approach slowly and carefully from downwind or down current, so that the pick-up line is closest to you. Keep the buoy on the same side as the helm so that you can see the mooring buoy as you approach.
  3. Use a boat hook to safely retrieve the pick-up line. Be sure to switch your boat into neutral during this step to avoid getting tangled in the line.
  4. Run your boat's bowline through the loop of the pick-up line, and then cleat both ends of your bowline to the bow of your boat. Do not tie the pick-up line directly to your boat as it can put stress on the mooring anchor. It's also important to understand where to tie up a boat for safety reasons -- do not stern tie to a mooring buoy as this can be dangerous to you and your boat, plus it puts unnecessary strain on the mooring system.
  5. Be sure to let out enough line so that the buoy is not pulled underwater and the line stays horizontal. Rough water may require you to use more line.
  6. Inspect the buoy your boat is tied to. Once you are tied up, check that the buoy is holding as intended.
  7. When you are ready to leave, uncleat your boat’s bowline and pull it through the loop of the pick-up line. Then, be sure to back away from the mooring so you do not get tangled in any of the mooring lines.
Now you don't have to wonder where is it legal to tie up your boat. You do, however, have to make sure that you have valid boat registration paperwork aboard before you head off to your favorite mooring spot.
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.