Tossing a Dock Line | Boating Safety

Tossing a Dock Line

There's more to tossing a dock line than you might think.

Thanks to joystick controls, almost anyone can dock a modern motoryacht like a pro. But if you’re on the deck crew, there’s still some skill involved in smart line handling. One such skill that’s fairly easy to master — and sure to impress — is the art of tossing a coiled line.

Start by running the entire line through your hands to remove any kinks or tangles. Let it fall loosely at your feet. Then figure out what to do with the tail or “bitter end” of the line to make sure it remains secure. If it’s long enough, you may want to attach it to a cleat, create a loop to and secure it to your wrist, or simply hold it under your foot. This describes how most right-handers would perform the toss. Lefties would simply reverse the order.

1. To ensure uniform coils, drop your left hand toward the thigh, lay the line over the open palm, and stretch the line out the full length of your right arm. Lay this length back into your left palm to create the first coil. You’ll probably notice that the line likes to twist in a certain direction. Go with it, giving the rope a half-turn in this direction to allow subsequent coils to fall neatly into place.

2. Once you've coiled about half the line, hook your left thumb over the existing coils; then finish coiling the remaining length over your still outstretched fingers. This will naturally separate the coils into two halves. Keep half the coils in your left hand and transfer the other half to your right. You should have at least three to four coils in your right hand to ensure there’s enough weight for a proper toss.

3. With a coil in each hand, step into a sidearm throwing motion, releasing when the coils are about shoulder high. Allow the weight of the thrown coil to pull the loops from your opposite hand as well. If you’re tossing the line to someone on the dock, aim a bit over the head so the line can drop across the body or outstretched arms. Aim low and you might clout the person in the face or cause a fumble on the catch.

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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit