Boating Basics: Several Steps to Mooring a Boat

Boating Basics: Several Steps to Mooring a Boat

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

How to moor a boat: Necessary equipment

Curved line: Connects the bow cleat to the dock to prevent your boat from moving from side to side.

Stern line: Connects the stern cleat to the dock so that your boat does not move back and forth.

Fender: Cushions that protect your torso from damage from impact with the dock.

Stollen: Horn-shaped hardware on your boat and dock to secure the lines.

Mooring a boat on a dock: The Cleat Hitch

  1. Attach your fenders to the bow and stern cleats with a cleat coupling. Take one turn of the line around the base of the cleat. Tie a knot in Figure 8 followed by a half hitch. Throw them overboard.
  2. Use the same clamp coupling 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. Drag your boat next to the dock.
  4. Use the bow line to make a full turn around the base of the dock cleat. Tie a knot in Figure 8, followed by two half knots. Repeat with the stern line.

Spring line

Another boat mooring system is a spring line used on large boats to keep them from moving forward or backward. The lines are much longer than the bow and stern lines and a few feet longer than the overall length of your boat. The spring line connects the bow cleat with a dock cleat, which is amidships and is still connected to the stern cleat of the boat. Feather lines are helpful when docking in tight spaces.

How to tie a boat to a buoy

Steer the boat so you can see the mooring buoy ready to be picked up. Approach the mooring buoy slowly and from a headwind or countercurrent direction. Idle your engine and use a boat hook to collect the mooring buoy pick-up line. Run your arch line through the loop of the pick up line. Attach the bow line to both bow cleats, ie 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 and length of anchor line. Claw or random anchors are great for muddy or sandy soils, while plow and navy anchors are best for rocky or coral soils. Use between 7 and 9 feet of anchor line per foot of water.

Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a contributing writer for Covey Rise magazine, a contributing editor for Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program. Keer is a regular contributor to over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics including fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor activities. When not fishing, Keer and his family hunt highland birds over their three English setters. His first book, A New England Coast Fly Fishing Guide, was published in January 2011. Visit him at or