Boat Rat:Using Spring Lines When Docking

In difficult docking situations, spring lines can get you up to and away from the dock without a lot of bother. Here are three simple spring line maneuvers.

When the wind is blowing you off a dock as you come in and will likely blow your bow off before you can get a bow line tied, start the docking maneuver with an after spring from an amidships cleat. Pull up alongside the dock so your mate can jump off with the after spring. Have him or her make it fast and tight on a cleat or bollard aft of your transom if possible. Then simply motor the boat forward with the rudder turned toward the dock (wheel away). Your boat will edge sideways until it snugs up against the pier so you can make the rest of your docking lines fast.

You can use a forward spring from an amidships cleat to perform the same type of maneuver in reverse. This works well when you are trying to fit a 40-foot boat into a 45-foot dock space where there is no room for error. Pull up alongside the open space and toss the forward spring to a helper on the dock, who should make it fast at the forward end of the space. Back down the engine with the rudder turned toward the dock until you are close, then turn the rudder amidships and then away from the dock; continue to back until you are against the dock and have the rest of the lines made fast.

To get off a dock when the wind is pinning the boat against it, plan to back out of the space if room allows, even if you have boats moored close on both side. Modern boats tend to back into the wind better than trying to push the bow around into the wind. Rig fenders at the bow on the dock side, rig an after spring as a loop from a cleat well forward of the beam or on the foredeck, and drop all of the other lines. Motor forward on the spring while steering toward the dock so the bow nudges up hard on the fenders. The stern will begin to swing into the wind. When you have room to back out, put the engine in reverse, reverse your rudder, retrieve the looped spring line and back into clear water.

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