Getting underway for the first time can be a stressful experience. However, with lots of
pre-planning, passenger orientation and preparation, stress can be kept at a minimum and a safe voyage
can be expected.
Once the boat has been checked out, passengers and equipment are aboard, and the engine has been started
and has been allowed to run until it has come to operating temperature, you are ready to cast off. But
before casting off let's take a look at how to tie and untie the boat properly.
Line Handling and Marlinspike
When aboard a boat ropes are no longer called ropes, they are called lines. At least
three and preferably four lines should be carried aboard for docking. A bow line to secure the bow;
a stern line to secure the stern, and at least one spring line to reduce fore-and-aft movement. The
diagram below shows four lines used. Although the stern line will keep the boat from moving forward
too much, to be safe a fourth spring line running from the dock cleat forward could be used.
There are five basic knots that every boater should know. All knots used by boaters are designed to
be easy to tie, take a tremendous amount of strain and then be easy to untie.
The five knots are as follows, and you should practice until you can tie them without thinking about it.
Cleat Hitch - In order to secure the boat to a dock or secure a line to the boat you will probably use the
cleat hitch. Take the line to the ear of the cleat furthest from where the line comes from (the
load). Take one wrap around the base of the cleat and then start a figure eight across the top
of the opposite ear. Finish with a half hitch turned under so that the line is coming away from
the cleat in the opposite direction from which it came in.
Bowline - Also called the "king" of knots, the bowline is very versatile. It is used to form a temporary
loop in a line which may then be put over a piling or cleat. It can also be used to attach a line
to an eye. This knot won't slip or jam.
Start by making an overhand loop which looks like a six (see first figure). With the end of the
line, come up through the hole in the six, around the back of the line you're holding and back
down through the hole in the six. Grab the part of the line that went up through the hole and
the part of the line that came back down through the hole in one hand, and the top of the line
you were holding in the other, and pull.
knot (reef knot) - Simple to make, the square knot is used for lots of light duty including
tying things down. Start with an overhand knot like you were beginning to tie your shoe. Keeping
the ends of the lines in your hand on the same side, cross them again and tie another overhand knot.
If you don't keep them on the same side you'll end up with a granny knot which will jam.
turn and two half hitches - Used to permanently tie to a piling, mooring or ring. Simply take a
full turn around the object being tied to and take two half hitches around the line itself. Over and
up through and under and down through.
Hitch - Used to temporarily tie to a piling this knot can come loose. You may add a couple of
half hitches as above to make it more permanent. This knot is simply two loops with an end tucked