Morning broke gray and chill, with the waters of the
Bayfield (WI) city docks more than a little lumpy underfoot. Loris and I
were aboard our 20-foot pocket cruiser, Persistence, and as usual we were
beginning our day with a cup of latte. There was a bump, a bounce, and I
grasped my cup. Something green caught my eye just above the centerboard
trunk. The CB is open on top, and, what I was staring at for a moment was a
surge of water that shot about a foot up the trunk and then slopped onto the
|Marina vs. cruising needs: I need different
dock lines while cruising, as opposed to just tying my boat up at a local
marina. If you are at your own dock, you can get by with a line a little
longer than what fits between your cleats and the dock's cleats, allowing
some movement for your boat. When you go out for a short day trip, you just
uncleat your lines.
In my marina, I have two bow lines, one stern line, and one spring line to keep the boat from surging forward and hitting the dock. Some boaters use two surge lines.
For cruising, a rule of thumb is to have dock lines two thirds to roughly the length of your boat, and, you will find this useful in the big docks, such as in the Bayfield city dock, Port Superior, Barker's Island, in Thunder Bay's marina, or even the tiny Rossport, Ontario, government dock. These are docks to accommodate big Lake Superior cruising boats and there's some distance between cleats, set high up on the docks. It's better to have too much line, and just coil it beside the dock cleat, than not have enough. Buy them all the same length and you can use them for bow, stern, or for spring lines.
The proper cleats: Naturally, you should have cleats that can handle the worst conditions, including those late-season storms. On Persistence, I have chrome-plated cast bronze cleats each with four bolts going through the deck on either side. There are two forward on the bow, and, two aft. These bolt through three-eights inch composite wood (a layer of teak, birch plywood, and a layer of Sitka spruce.) The cleats are backed with a quarter -inch of marine ply epoxy glued to the deck, and, the deck is set into a three-fourths inch thick Sitka Spruce deck shelf. The holes are drilled slightly undersized for the screws; screws are driven in, and then pulled out. The resulting holes with threads are epoxy swabbed, left to dry, and then the stainless steel bolts went back in, fastened with washers and stainless nuts. This is strong construction and it gives me peace of mind.
Docking: When I attach a dock line to the boat, I put the dock line eye through the eye of the mooring cleat and then back it around the horns. For the cleat at the dock, I use a cleat hitch, first inserting the line through the eye, then making a round turn, several loops, and, end it with a locking half hitch. If it's really rough, I toss in a few extra half hitches in the line itself. Call me Mr. Cautious, but I've never had a dock line come adrift.
On the bow, dock lines run from the two heavy cleats through two chromed bronze chocks. I have run my fingers inside the chocks so that I know there are no rough casting edges, as some chocks have to wear through the dock lines.
During a blow when cruising, I usually check dock lines for chafe. I' ve been lucky, because I haven't had any wear-through problems, even when the boat has been bouncing around. Once in a while, I let out the dock lines a little, just to get a different area of line exposed to the rubbing of the bow cleat.
Good three-strand dock lines are an inexpensive form of insurance for you and your boat. The right ones, correctly used, will take care of your boat and give you security of mind. They will also save you money.
I am reminded of one incident that happened in a local marina. I was down at my boat one day when a boating neighbor across the way called me over.
"Look at that," he said, pointing down. In his shiny hull I could see scratches and rub marks.
He pointed to the vessel in the nearby slip. "That got away from the dock."
It was the bane of all sail boaters - a pontoon craft, with those rough, welded aluminum spray rails.
I shook my head in sympathy. "What're you going to do?" I asked.
He told me that he had already talked to the marina office and had the satisfaction of listening to the manager's conversation, which was short and sweet. It went something like this to the pontoon owner:
"Your boat broke loose. It damaged a nearby boat. I'm going to fix it and you're going to pay for it."
End of conversation. It kind of sent chills up my spine. It also reminded me how inexpensive proper dock lines are.
Marlin Bree is the author of Wake of the Green Storm: A survivor's tale. His web site is www.marlinbree.com which has more pictures of his home-built boat, Persistence.