As much as we’d love to spend all day, every day out on the water, there are times that we need to dock our boats.  When it comes to tying your boat to a dock, Germaine Marine is able to show you how the best captains dock their boats safely and securely, so you can do it the very same way. 

Preparing Your Boat

There’s no docking a boat without the right gear and accessories on board. Before you head out on your boating adventure, ensure your boat is completely ready to dock when you come back. 


Cleats are t-shaped hardware strategically placed around the edge of a boat to make tying your boat up easier. Boat cleats are made from various materials, including wood, aluminum, and steel, and come in numerous styles and sizes.

If your boat doesn’t currently have cleats, they are simple to install. At a minimum, you should have three cleats on the port side and three cleats on the starboard side of your boat. This gives you more flexibility to tie up your boat on either side — or both. Whichever side you tie to the dock, make sure you use all three cleats to ensure your boat is securely in place. 


Boat bumpers help protect your boat from directly hitting the dock and causing damage to your vessel. There are a variety of options to choose from and they give you peace of mind when docking, knowing that your boat is being protected from damage. 


You should have nylon ropes on board to help you tie up to a dock. Ideally, have two sets of ropes available — one for temporary slips and one for permanent slips. Look for a double braid or three-strand line nylon to get the strongest rope for docking. 


Get to know your dock before you tie your boat to it so you understand the conditions in which you’ll be leaving your vessel. There are two different ways you can tie up your boat and not every dock has the same fittings. 

Dock Cleats 

Some docks have cleats, enabling you to easily tie one knot to your boat cleat, then tie the and another knot to the dock cleat. 


If the dock doesn’t have cleats, it likely has pilings. These are long pieces of wood or metal attached to the dock, and they’re used to tie up boats. If you are planning on tying your boat up for a long period of time, tying up to pilings is the more secure option.

Helpful Tips 

The U.S. Coast Guard has 10 helpful rules for docking your boat. Follow each rule and your boat has the best chance of being completely secure. 

Rule One 

Never approach the dock faster than you are willing to hit it. 

Rule Two 

There is only one captain on your boat. 

Rules Three Through 10

See Rules One and Two. When in doubt, refer to Rule Two. 

Common Boating Knots 

There are a variety of knots used in boating. Most of them are easy to learn once you get the hang of the basics, especially since most intricate knot types build on the foundation of common knots. Below, you’ll learn about five of the most common boating knots and get step-by-step instructions on how to tie them. Once you have these knots down, you can easily tie your boat to a dock. 

Clove Hitch 

A clove hitch is a common, all-purpose knot with a variety of uses. Boaters like to use this knot because it is easy to tie and untie and it’s quick to implement. 

Follow these steps to tie a clove hitch: 

Step One

Wrap the free end of your rope around the cleat or piling of the dock. 

Step Two

Cross the rope over itself and wrap it around the post again 

Step Three

Push the open end of the rope under the last wrap. 

Step Four

Pull the loose end tightly to secure it. 

tie a clove hitch

Clove Hitch Advantages

  • Easy to tie
  • Adjustable without untying the knot 
  • Can be tied with one hand

Clove Hitch Disadvantages 

  • Can slip easily
  • Not ideal for rectangular or square posts
  • Thinner ropes could be harder to untie

Cleat Hitch 

This is perhaps the most popular knot boaters use when tying their boat to a dock because it is quick to tie, easy to do, and it is a sturdy, reliable knot. 

Follow these steps to tie a cleat hitch: 

Step One

Wrap the rope around the base of the cleat, then bring it over the top of the cleat. 

Step Two 

Bring the rope back under the arm of the cleat opposite of where you did the first wrap, then bring it back over the top of the cleat. 

Step Three

Wrap under the first arm a second time then bring it back over the top of the cleat. The rope should now look like a figure eight around the cleat. 

Step Four 

With the loose end of the rope, form an underhand loop and slip it over the arm of the cleat. This pins the free end under the last wrap. 

Step Five 

Pull the loose end tightly to secure it. 

hot to tie a cleat hitch

Cleat Hitch Advantages 

  • Fast 
  • Simple to tie 
  • Unties quickly and neatly

Cleat Hitch Disadvantages 

  • Needs additional loops if left tied for a long time
  • Extremely wavy conditions can loosen the knot over time 

Bowline Knot

The bowline knot is extremely useful due to its strength and ease of use. Additionally, you can easily join two bowline knots to make a longer rope. 

Follow these steps to tie a bowline knot: 

Step One

Put the rope across your left hand with the loose end hanging down.

Step Two

Form a small loop with the rope in your hand. 

Step Three 

Bring the loose end up and pass it through the loop from the underside. 

Step Four 

Wrap the loose end of the rope around the standing part of the rope and bring it back down through the loop. 

Step Five 

Tighten the knot by pulling on the loose end while holding onto the standing end. 

hot to tie a bowline knot

Bowline Knot Advantages 

  • Does not jam 
  • Fast and easy to tie and untie — even with one hand 
  • Does not slip or bind under pressure

Bowline Knot Disadvantages 

  • Can’t be tied or untied if there is pressure on the standing end of the rope
  • Not practical for other boating activities, such as tubing or wakeboarding, because it is easy to untie

Overhand Knot

An overhand knot is the simplest and easiest knot out there. In fact, it’s one many of us know without ever setting foot on a boat. It is an easy knot stopper and helps prevent ends from unraveling. 

Follow these steps to tie an overhand knot: 

Step One 

Create a loop in the rope. 

Step Two

Pass the loose end of the rope through the loop. 

Step Three 

Pull tight to form your knot. 

hot to tie an overhand knot

Overhand Knot Advantages 

  • Secure
  • Permanent 
  • Ties tightly against objects or other knots 

Overhand Knot Disadvantages 

  • Jams easily
  • Reduces the strength of the rope
  • Can be difficult to untie 

Figure Eight 

Figure-eight knots have many uses, even outside of boating. They are popular because the knot prevents the end of the rope from slipping out. 

Follow these steps to tie a figure eight knot: 

Step One

Make a loop in the rope, ensure the loose end is free. 

Step Two 

Take the loose end over the standing part of the rope. 

Step Three 

Push the loose end up through the underside of the first loop. 

Step Four 

Pull the loose end and the standing part of the rope to tighten it down into a knot. The final knot looks like a figure eight. 

hot to tie a figure eight knot

Figure Eight Advantages 

  • Less prone to failure
  • Quick and easy to tie and untie 
  • Easy to visually inspect 

Figure Eight Disadvantages 

  • Not as strong as other knots

Ready to Tie Your Boat Up?

From the proper gear to common boating knots, you now have the skills and knowledge to expertly tie your boat to a dock. For all additional boating needs or questions, get in touch with Germaine Marine in Mesa, Arizona, American Fork, Utah, or Norco, California. We look forward to helping you get the most out of life on the water. 

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