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Tying a boat to a dock cleat is one of the most routine activities of owning and operating watercraft, and you need to know how to do it correctly.

If you do not take the time to learn the proper tying methods, you risk losing your boat and injuring other people and equipment on the water.

While learning to properly tie a boat to the dock is important and possibly intimidating, anyone can easily learn how to do it. It just takes a little instruction and practice!

So, if you haven’t learned yet, today is your day to learn how to tie a boat to a dock cleat. 

Let’s get started!

How to approach the dock and prepare the lines

The process of docking actually begins long before you arrive at the dock.

You must plan your entrance and docking procedure before you make your way into the dock so that you can be in the best position for tying your boat to the dock.

A little bit of planning and foresight can save you a lot of headache when you actually arrive at the dock and want to get tired quickly.

Here’s how to properly plan your approach to the dock to make tying off as easy as possible.

Once you decide to move to the dock, think about the currents, wind direction and wind speed.

Also notice other boats that may be in the area or that may also want to dock along the same path.

Always give other boats plenty of space to move in the water, and be cognizant of how your actions affect others.

Plan your approach in conjunction with the environmental factors listed above, and you will be in a much better position than if you disregard them.

When you near the dock, toss a spring line to someone standing on the dock.

This will give you a little stability so that you can finish tying off.

Next, tie off a rope from your bow cleat to the dock cleat that is most directly in front of the boat. 

This will prevent you from drifting backwards back out to sea.

Next, tie off a line from the aft side, and repeat the process with a line from the side of the boat to a stern cleat behind the boat.

If possible, tie your lines at an angle from your boat to the dock cleats. 

This will give your boat more flexibility during tidal changes, reducing the chance that your boat will sink or become stuck under the dock.

Then, assess the situation and be sure that all of your knots are secure. For more information on knots, see below!

How to tie a boat to a dock cleat

If you do not know how to tie a boat to a dock cleat with the proper knots, you will have a very difficult time securing your boat to the dock.

So, take the time to learn in advance!

There are several different methods for tying a boat to a dock cleat, but we will start with the most simple and effective. 

You are more than welcome to use fancier knots if you like, just make sure that you know how to properly tie off.

We’ll show you how to tie the cleat hitch knot, but here are some of the other types of knots that you may want to learn.

  • Ashley’s bend
  • Boom hitch
  • Bowline
  • Bowline on a bight
  • Carrick bend
  • Anchor bend
  • Common whipping
  • Flemish bend
  • Haylard hitch
  • Heavy line knot
  • Icicle hitch
  • Sailor’s bowline
  • Trucker’s hitch
  • Tucked sheet bend
  • Water knot
  • And more!

Cleat hitch knot

A cleat hitch knot is one of the easiest, most common boating knots. You can use it for a variety of functions.

Even if you’re a beginner who has never learned to tie a proper knot, this is a very quick and simple knot to learn.

If you have this knot in your tool belt, you will be well on your way to securely tying your boat to a dock cleat.

The other benefit of this knot is that it is easy to untie.

While you may think that this is a bad thing, it will actually help you later: this will make leaving the dock easier.

The cleat hitch knot is very secure while the boat is tied, yet it is fairly easy to undo.

To tie the cleat hitch knot, first loop the rope underneath the right side of the cleat hitch, coming from the back left side of the hitch.

Then, loop the rope up under the left side of the hitch, and bring it back over the hitch, moving underneath the right side. 

Repeat this pattern in a figure eight formation until you are satisfied that you have a sufficient number of loops.

At the end of the process, make a loop with the end of the rope facing the hitch, and slip it over the side of the cleat hitch.

Since the end is trapped between the outer rope and the cleat hitch, it will be held securely.

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