I Learned About Boating From This: Inadequate Dock Lines

A dock line deficiency leaves two boaters all wet.

I Learned About Boating From This: Inadequate Dock Lines
I Learned About Boating From This: Inadequate Dock Lines Boating Magazine

My wife and I were docked at a favorite watering hole. It was a busy Sunday afternoon and the dock hands were already committed to helping other boats, so when a 30-something go-fast came rumbling in across from us without waiting for assistance or instructions, another boater and I got up to help. The lady on board passed a bow line to the other guy, at which point the driver shut down the engines. The stern was still about 5 feet off the dock. There was a slight breeze blowing him off, so by the time the driver got up and found another dock line, the stern was about 10 feet off the dock. His line looked to be 15 feet long, at best. He tried to toss one end to me, but he came up short. Gathered the line, tried again, still short. At this time, I told my wife to get a 25-footer from our boat as I could see this was fruitless. The driver wanted to try again, so I wrapped one arm around a dock post and leaned out over the water to get a little closer. This time, I caught his line and did a quick wrap around my hand to get a better grip. I had a good hold, but, unfortunately, the driver did not have very good footing; by then, he was standing on the gunwale and leaning out just to keep hold of the line. He took a pull on the line to try to bring the boat in. Instead, he merely pulled himself completely off balance and took a dive. At that point, my wife had arrived with the 25-footer. Once the bow was secure, his lady headed to the cockpit. I tossed her the line and started to pull their stern in. Their boat now under control, she reached down to help him back into the boat, lost her footing and joined him for a swim. Since their boat did not have a swim platform, they both swam to a neighboring boat where the owner had already dropped his ladder. The owner and lady soggily tromped down the dock and climbed back on their boat. He then finished up by removing my line and securing with his own. Once they were all settled in, I offered him a beverage and made an observation that maybe he should have started with a longer line than the 15-footer, at which point he told me 15 feet was the longest he had. By the way, there were also no words of thanks or appreciation. His only comment was: “I just lost $150 bucks down there. I guess I should have a cheap pair of sunglasses like yours.” And I have to add all this took place to the amusement of patrons at the restaurant right next to the docks.

I’ve sometimes had boating friends make fun of me for the assortment of dock lines I carry. My primary lines consist of two 20-footers, two 25-footers and two 30-footers, plus an assortment of backups in smaller diameters, plus 50-foot and 100-foot utility (no spliced eye) lines. But I’ve never had a docking situation I can’t handle, and I’m often loaning lines out.

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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 www.uscgboating.org.