BlogMarch 2023

Tips for How to Tie a Boat to a Dock

Tips for How to Tie a Boat to a Dock

By Andy Whitcomb

Mar 22, 2023

Part of boat operation includes “parking,” that is, tying the boat to a dock. Here are several tips to consider when learning how to secure your boat between outings.

Part of the test for a driver’s license involves parking the vehicle. Similarly, there are times during boating on larger water that the operator needs to “pull into a parking space” rather than just re-trailering the boat. Thus, it is important to know how to dock a boat and how to tie a boat to a dock.



An important part of knowing how to tie up a boat to a dock or how to dock a boat in a slip, which is like a three-sided dock parking space, is checking that the rope is up to the task. How old is the rope? Does is show any signs of fraying? Is it long enough? In general, the bigger the boat, the bigger the rope. You can find rope at tackle stores and marina shops, as well as many hardware or big landscape stores. If you look for the words “boat,” “marine,” “dock,” or “mooring” on the packaging, it will ensure that the rope is build for these conditions and lasts longer. Rope can be sold in 15 ft. lengths or longer. I like to have plenty of extra on hand, to be prepared for different dock types. Oh, and do you have a couple of bumpers or fenders to hang off the side to keep from scratching or otherwise damaging the boat while docked?

Where to Tie

How to tie a boat to a dock also includes knowing where to tie. Sturdy docks that commonly serve boat parking will have “cleats” which are winged metal pieces designed for tying. Larger boats also have these handy features. The posts of the docks can be used if there aren’t any cleats.

What to Tie and When

There are several handy knots to learn. For example, a knot for how to tie a boat to a dock post, like a “clove hitch” differs from a knot used to tie to a cleat, like the “cleat hitch.”

The clove hitch:

1. Wrap rope once around post working downward.

2. The second time around, take tag end under the rope and pull tight.

The cleat hitch:

1. Make a figure 8 around the cleat ends.

2. Finish with an underhand loop on one end.

Knots can also vary by the length of time the boat is expected to be docked and the conditions. The knots for how to tie a boat to a dock overnight or how to tie a boat to a dock with tide are more secure and do not untie as quickly. Online boat safety courses can be a good place to learn many of these knots.


Learn to tie several knots quickly and with confidence so that, as boat captain, you can handle multiple scenarios. You may even have to know how to dock a boat by yourself. Learning how to dock a boat will not only help protect your boat but the boats and property of others.



Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.