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Old 01-06-2017, 06:34 PM   #1
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Using Spring Lines

Most of us at one time or another have faced the problem of getting into a slip or getting on or on a dock when the wind and/or current is doing its best to keep us from accomplishing what we want.

Many years ago a good friend of mine taught me a few tricks about making those maneuvers much easier. When most of us think of spring lines we think of the lines we use when the boat is in the slip to keep it in a certain position in the slip so the wind doesnít move it around.

There is a whole new usage for the term ďspring linesĒ and thatís what friend taught me. So I thought Iíd share some of these tips with all of you.
First is the situation where you have to back into a slip and youíre going to have to bring the bow around against the wind, as shown below. Tie a spring line between the aft most cleat on your boat and have it looped just half way around a corner cleat on the dock. Someone needs to be standing there holding tight to the line so that on your command they can remove the line from the dock cleat. One secret to all of these spring line situations is to have adequate fenders between your boat and the dock.


As you put the boatís stbd engine in reverse the boat will start to back up until the line goes taut. As you continue in reverse, the stern will start to pivot into the slip and the bow will come around into the wind.

The boat will continue to pivot around the corner of the dock.


As the boat starts to align with the slip, tell the person holding the line to let it come off the dock cleat and then back the boat in. You want to make sure you have plenty of fenders along your port side because the wind is going to hold it onto the dock.


The next scenario where spring lines are helpful is getting off a dock where space fore and aft is tight so you canít go back or forward to swing out from the dock.

Here you want to swing the bow out from the dock. Put a line from a cleat near your stern to a cleat on the dock that is near the stern. Again, just go half way around the dock cleat so the line can be released in a hurry. As you go in reverse (stbd engine only) the line will go taut and the stern will pivot in toward the dock. The bow will swing out from the dock and when you feel itís far enough out from the dock, let the person holding the line to remove it from the dock cleat so you can then go forward.


In this case you want to swing the stern out from the dock so you can back away. Take a line from a forward cleat on your boat to a midship cleat on the dock. Have your fenders set in the forward area of your port side. As you put your stbd engine into forward gear the boat will move forward until the line goes taut, then the bow will start to pivot toward the dock. When that happens the stern will swing out from the dock. When itís far enough out from the dock that you can back away, let your deck hand know to release the line from the dock cleat, then just back away.


One big secret to making these movements work is to have good communication between you and the person who is going to handle the line. Explain to them or draw pictures to show them what you want,, then have them repeat it to you. You want to remove all possibility of a miscommunication that could damage the boat or end up with someone getting injured.

There are a lot of different ways to use spring lines to make difficult maneuvers much easier. The only limiting factor is your imagination.
Any comments? Additional suggestions? Go for it!
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Old 01-06-2017, 06:42 PM   #2
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I've tried some of these a few times, especially last summer and they were helpful.
A few things I think I learned:

1-be patient-it may take a little time to get the end you want moving using low power settings.
2-think it thru before doing it
3-use of appropriate rudder helps
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Old 01-06-2017, 08:21 PM   #3
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I think spring lines are a boaters best friend. Especially a single screw boat. On the East Coast we have many docks with pilings, especially on the Chesapeake Bay. They make using spring lines a piece of cake. In you first example of working around the end of a dock with adverse wind or current. You can have the deck hand take a couple of turns around a piling the release tension slowly as you back in. This holds the boat along side the dock. It's harder to do on a floating dock unless there is plenty of protection on the side of the dock.

Sadly, it appears that many boaters do not know how to use spring lines. When handling lines for a friend we were bringing his boat into a tight parallel parking spot. I was going loop a cleat off the bow then he would power the boat ahead using an after bow spring. Some of the boaters came out to offer help. I told one guy that offered which cleat to pul the loop on. He insisted to put it on a forward cleat. Finally, I told him to just drop the line. He got mad and threw it into the water. I retrieved it, and looped around the cleat I had directed him to. When the boat snugged right to the dock with only a couple of feet to spare on either end, many on the dock said they had never seen that done before. That was something that each should have known. When you dock along side in river current, it's a no brainer.

Getting off the dock in curent a forward quarter spring line does the trick like you example. With bow current or wind the bow will fall off the dock naturally.

I love using spring lines.
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Old 01-06-2017, 08:34 PM   #4
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Used a spring line often on my last boat - but have really never had to with the bow thruster on this one.
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Old 01-06-2017, 08:57 PM   #5
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I moor all the time w spring lines at home in our slip in LaConner Wa.

I've been backing in lately (again) and the fwd spring line limits how far the boat can move aft. We only have about 2" stern to float clearence. Both spring lines need to be tight to insure the starn does not rub on the edge of the float.
I attach the spring lines from a samson post amidships and the lines are long enough to extend well beyond the hull ends.

Yes I like my spring lines.
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Old 01-06-2017, 09:30 PM   #6
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Your second illustration would make me nervous.

Any delay in getting the line on board or other issue delaying you from pulling away from the dock and you run the risk of being blown into the boat in front of you.

Using a spring off your bow back to a point a third of your hull length or so down the dock towards your stern allows you to pivot off and back into the current/wind for better control.
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Old 01-06-2017, 11:54 PM   #7
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Capt Bill,
Am I missing something or were you referring to my third illustration where you spring the stern out away from the dock? Your description of using a bow spring line to a cleat about a third of your hull length down the dock seems to indicate you'd be springing the stern out.


We use that one frequently as you described it. That's how I meant to describe it in the third example, but you did a better job of writing it out. Thanks.


We have a bow thruster on our boat so don't use spring lines to swing the bow out. We do use them frequently to get the stern off the dock. They work like a charm.
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Old 01-07-2017, 12:03 AM   #8
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Quote:
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. We do use them frequently to get the stern off the dock. They work like a charm.
Agreed. Even with our twin screws, it is an elegantly simple evolution and one easily taught to the young or inexperienced "weekend shipmates."

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Old 01-07-2017, 12:13 AM   #9
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Helpful discussion,thanks guys for a useful thread.
This is kind of spring line. We reverse into our slip, the prevailing summer breeze wants to blow us back out and away from the stbd side finger tie. Solution has been get a line on the stbd quarter, (an aft spring?), and fwd on port engine. Stern kicks out, but then stbd side sits against dock. With the engine at idle in gear, help attach lines.
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Old 01-07-2017, 12:40 AM   #10
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Using spring lines maneuvering in/out a berth implies the availability of a crewman in addition to the helmsman. I don't operate under that assumption. Doing OK without spring lines, perhaps because I've got a bow thruster and a large rudder. Most always secure the mid-ship dockline first. (Got two mid-ship cleats. )
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Old 01-07-2017, 06:36 AM   #11
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Our first larger boat was single screw, no thruster. We routinely used spring lines to dock or "undock" -- probably 98% of the time -- and so now we continue that, maybe 80% of the time, even with twins.

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Old 01-07-2017, 06:50 AM   #12
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Quote:
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Capt Bill,
Am I missing something or were you referring to my third illustration where you spring the stern out away from the dock? Your description of using a bow spring line to a cleat about a third of your hull length down the dock seems to indicate you'd be springing the stern out.


We use that one frequently as you described it. That's how I meant to describe it in the third example, but you did a better job of writing it out. Thanks.


We have a bow thruster on our boat so don't use spring lines to swing the bow out. We do use them frequently to get the stern off the dock. They work like a charm.
I think he meant the second one.

I wouldn't use it either.

I used springs a lot driving towing vessels both single and rwins, couldn't do the job without them.

Most important thing with springs, if something goes wrong and the line doesn't free up or there is a delay...what happens next.

#2 has you releasing the line then powering with the current. That is not a great idea in strong current situations. If the current was coming from the other direction...then sure, I used that almost everyday with the assistance boat.

#3 Would be my go to with the wind or current coming from the stern....well ....actually it would look more like and after bow spring for me.
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Old 01-07-2017, 06:57 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markpierce View Post
Using spring lines maneuvering in/out a berth implies the availability of a crewman in addition to the helmsman. I don't operate under that assumption. Doing OK without spring lines, perhaps because I've got a bow thruster and a large rudder. Most always secure the mid-ship dockline first. (Got two mid-ship cleats. )
Actually the opposite in my experience doing and seeing others.

Springs allow you to get and stay into places where the boat can be left in gear because you don't have another set of hands to help.

BruceK's situation/solution is exactly how I overcome a wind or current keeping me off a dock when single handling the vast majority of the time. If the current/wind is too strong or the cleat too weak, then I have to rig an after bow spring and nose up to the dock.

If you doubt me, go watch an assistance tow guy that operates a single engine boat, singlehanded. They HAVE to use springs a lot or always bring the disabled in side tow.
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Old 01-07-2017, 09:09 AM   #14
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Another thought when using springs or any line, is to give the dock person the loop so you can keep the running end. The reasoning is that you (or your mate on the boat) can keep control over the tension and length of the line with just one turn on the (boat) cleat and playing it. Many times the person on the dock (if inexperienced) will cleat you down so tight that you lose all control of the boat. The person on the dock is well intentioned but can really screw you up.
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Old 01-07-2017, 10:59 AM   #15
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Looking at that first scenario, the forces on that fender and on that spring line are going to be tremendous to fight a significant current or wind. Slacking the line as needed while under that load is dangerous, and good luck fendering off on a corner or a pile.

In this situation I back upstream at an angle so it enters the slip at an angle. Rub rail then makes contact hopefully fwd of midship so boat pivots to line up. For years I had no thruster so with a single might need to use some stbd rudder and a kick of fwd. Always a pucker factor being single handed.

Once partially in the slip, the spring line really helps if there are others there to handle them. Need one in the boat and one on the dock.
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Old 01-07-2017, 11:14 AM   #16
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I think he meant the second one.

I wouldn't use it either.

I used springs a lot driving towing vessels both single and rwins, couldn't do the job without them.

Most important thing with springs, if something goes wrong and the line doesn't free up or there is a delay...what happens next.

#2 has you releasing the line then powering with the current. That is not a great idea in strong current situations. If the current was coming from the other direction...then sure, I used that almost everyday with the assistance boat.

#3 Would be my go to with the wind or current coming from the stern....well ....actually it would look more like and after bow spring for me.
What he said. ^
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Old 01-07-2017, 11:44 AM   #17
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Just to "spring" into this confab. I'll leverage my way through!

It's all about leverage! When there is a boat's chosen pivot point (e.g. one of your cleats) attached by line to a stationary item (a dock) there has been a leverage factor introduced for a power source (engine, wind, current or combination of the three) to "spring" the boat into a different angle to the stationary item.

Spring line technique can also be utilized when rafting up or un-rafting boats in harbors.

Length of line is important considering each "spring" incident. In other words (in relation to spring lines that establish radius movement): Angle of the dangle should be directly proportionate to length of line and circumference of the partial circle.

Practice can make perfect
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Old 01-07-2017, 12:15 PM   #18
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A couple of things I should have clarified in my first post.....


We always set up the spring lines while we're still tied to the dock. The loop is fastened around a cleat on the boat, then only a half turn around the dock cleat and the bitter end goes back up to the deck hand. If the feathers hit the fan and things go wrong the deck hand has the option of holding onto the line or releasing it. Because it's only 1/2 turn around the dock cleat it's easy to get it off.



Another thing I should have clarified--when you put the line around the dock cleat, the line goes first around the end of the cleat that is opposite to the direction of travel. That way, when the boat goes into gear the line will tighten up and the deck hand can hang onto it. If you put it on the wrong horn of the cleat it will just slip off.


I guess by way of a disclaimer, I should also have mentioned that these will not work in every situation. You, as the skipper of the boat, have the option of using them or not, at your discretion. They are not the cure all for docking woes.
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Old 01-07-2017, 01:05 PM   #19
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Obviously never had a line hang up, a crewman or dock handler screw up...or be in a current so strong and singlehandling that getting to the controls and powering out just wasn't going to happen without hitting the next boat.


Method 3 is always preferable to #2 unless the current is reversed...seen plenty of smashups when people think they can power with the current or wind.


Most spring line applications do work in extreme conditions if the right one is used.


I have used them single handed tying to a dock in winds over 40 gusting to 60. Without them...I would never have been able to do the job.
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Old 01-07-2017, 01:40 PM   #20
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We have line holder straps port and stbd. on the rail just above our spring cleats. They are permanent fixtures on Moonstruck.

On Lou's very first cruising experience we were tied up along side in the dead end corner of the St. Charles Yacht Club in Fort Myers. There were a couple of other guest boats tied up closely behind. When it came time for us to leave, the restaurant overlooking the dock was filling up. I walked out on the bow, and took a bow line and put a couple of turns around a piling just behind the cleat. I gave Lou one end of the line, and told her to start easing tension when she heard me on the hailer. I went to forward gear on the stbd. engine. When the stern was clear I said, "OK Now". She let the tension off, and pulled the line back on the boat. She was so nervous that she failed to see the number of people standing at the dining room windows applauding her effort. From then on she learned that a spring line was usually one that I wanted on first.

We have docked in many different circumstances since that time. She has grown more and more competent with time.
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