BlogDecember 2017

Boating Basics: Several Steps on How to Moor a Boat

Boating Basics: Several Steps on How to Moor a Boat

By Tom Keer

Dec 21, 2017

Know how to tie up your boat to a dock, a mooring ball or anchor at sea.

One of the most important and easiest skills for boating basics to learn is how to moor a boat. Here are three tips on how to moor a boat to a dock, a buoy or the bottom.

How to dock a boat: Necessary Gear

Bow line: Connects the bow cleat to the dock to keep your boat from moving side-to-side.

Stern line: Connects the stern cleat to the dock to keep your boat from moving side-to-side.

Fenders:  Cushions that protect your hull from damage caused by impact against the dock.

Cleats: A horn-shaped hardware on your boat and on the dock used for securing lines.

Mooring a Boat to a Dock: The Cleat Hitch

  1. Attach your fenders to the bow and stern cleats with a Cleat Hitch.  Take one turn of the line around the base of the cleat.  Tie a Figure 8 knot followed by one half hitch.  Toss them overboard.
  2. Use the same Cleat Hitch to attach your bow and stern lines.  The bow line goes to the bow cleat and the stern line goes to the stern cleat.
  3. Pull your boat along side the dock.
  4. Take one full turn around the base of the dock cleat with the bow line.  Tie a Figure 8 knot follow by two half hitches.  Repeat with the stern line.

Spring line

Another boat mooring system is a spring line which is used with big boats to keep them from moving forward or aft.  The lines are far longer than the bow and stern lines and are a few feet longer than the total length of your boat.  The spring line connects the bow cleat with a dock cleat that is midship and continues to connect with the boat's stern cleat.  Spring lines are helpful when docking in tight areas.  

How to moor a boat to a buoy

Steer the boat so you can see the mooring buoy for pick up.  Approach the mooring buoy slowly and from a down wind or down current direction.  Put your engine in neutral and retrieve the mooring buoy's pick-up line with a boat hook.  Run your bow line through the loop of the pick up line.  Cleat the bow line to both bow cleats meaning the cleats on both the port and starboard sides.  Leave enough line so that the buoy is not pulled underwater.  

Boat Anchoring

Use the correct type of anchor as well as the appropriate length of anchor line. Claw or fluke anchors are great in muddy or sandy bottoms while plough and Navy anchors are best for rocky or coral bottoms.  Use between 7 and 9 feet of anchor line per foot of water depth.

Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at