Slips and Docks

Even though we had snow here yesterday many boaters have set their sights on a date for launching their boat here in West Michigan. The weather is showing signs of improving, and that means it’s time to get to work. Cleaning, tune-ups, oil changes, and more need to be done to make the boat reliable before heading out anywhere far, but there are other responsibilities at hand as well. For people who slip their boat for the season, it’s time to inspect the lines and available mooring gear.

Docking or slipping a boat without proper lines is like leaving your car in neutral instead of park. There is a chance nothing bad will happen, but it’s more than likely some damage will occur if the car starts to roll. Boats need to be properly and securely tied to the dock or seawall where it is left unattended, and the dock lines need to be configured correctly to keep the vessel from damaging itself or other boats and structures.

Before you even think about heading to the slip, take the lines out of their winter storage hiding places and lay them out for inspection. Look for rot and frayed sections, and make sure splices are secure. Be sure the lines are long enough to reach the pilings or cleats you’ll need to use. Don’t skimp on dock lines, replace or add any as needed before you hit the water.

Spring lines are often overlooked and can be the best way to prevent damage without restricting your ability to board the boat. Stern lines should be crossed to allow for changes in water levels without giving the boat too much lateral movement in the slip as the water rises or lowers. A good boat hook can allow the Captain to reach the lines from the boat much easier, which can also counter a decision to take the easiest path when tying up instead of the proper one. And although bumpers or fenders are useful, they should not be the cure-all for keeping teh boat from becoming damaged. There is no substitute for properly securing the vessel.

The worse thing a boat owner can find when he’s driven down to the boat is that it’s full of water, but a close second is finding it has beaten itself against the pilings or seawall in a heavy wind. Take the extra time and effort to carefully and securely tie off the boat and you’ll take one more step to ensuring a trouble free season.

See you on the water…