dock lines

The 6 Best Dock Lines (and Boat Springs) for Securing Vessels

One of the most essential elements of any boat is the quality of the dock lines.

They stop your prized possession from drifting away from the jetty and into the great beyond.

A good dock line will keep your vessel secure in all weathers and will last no matter what the elements have to throw at them.

So, if you are looking to upgrade your dock lines or are simply trying to make the right choice, look no further and read this article to get the lowdown.

How to Choose the Best Dock Line for Your Boat

Choosing the right dock line comes down to four elements: the size of your boat, the thickness of the rope, the length of the rope and the configuration you use when docking.

Once you’ve established these four things, you can be sure that you have chosen the right dock line.

Boat Size vs. Rope Thickness

The general rule of thumb for choosing the best size dock line is roughly 1/8 of an inch in diameter for every 9 feet of length.

For smaller craft, this is an easy decision. There are no rules that state you can’t have a dock line that is twice the required thickness. After all, whatever happens, it isn’t going to snap.

In relation to rope thickness, here is a basic rule of length and weight to consider:

  • Boats 19.5 – 33 feet | 2,200 – 20K pounds | 10 – 14 mm thick
  • Boats 39.5 – 59 feet | 28 – 55K pounds | 16 – 20 mm thick
  • Boats over 59 feet | 55K pounds | 24 mm thick

How Long Should My Dock Line Be?

It’s generally accepted that you should keep four lines on your boat: two the same length as your boat and two lines at one and a half times the length of your boat.

For example, if you have a 26 -foot vessel, you should have two 26-foot dock lines and another two at roughly 17 feet in length.

Let’s Talk Dock Line Configurations and Springs

Available are many ways to configure your dock lines to secure your craft and spread the load apportioned to each rope. But here I’ll share the most common.

Referred to as springs, they act as a damper to a boat’s forward and backward motion as it moves against waves or passing vessels. A good spring enables the load placed on the dock line to spread the weight and movement, preventing the boat from clattering violently back and forth or hitting the dock sides.

Take a look at the several springs you could deploy:

  • After Quarter Spring — This is where the dock line is fed from the stern of the boat, in an outward direction away from the vessel at roughly 45 degrees.
  • Quarter Breast Spring — These lines run at right angles to the dock cleats.
  • Forward Quarter Spring — This is where a dock line is fed from the stern and secured to a cleat located in the center of the pontoon. Again, the rope is at a 45-degree angle.
  • After Bow Spring — This is the reverse of the Forward Quarter Spring, with the dock line reaching from the bow at 45 degrees, and meeting in the center of the vessel.
  • Forward Breast Spring — This is the same as the Quarter Breast Spring but tied from the bow of the boat at a right angle.
  • Forward Spring — A rope is tied at a 45-degree angle, heading away from the boat.

Springs are important, but you wouldn’t want to employ all of these at the same time. Not only would it be time-consuming, but it would also be completely pointless and considered overkill. You should tie on at the bow and stern, and then use a Quarter Spring both fore and aft.

The Important Cleat Hitch

The cleat hitch is widely accepted as the best knot to secure your boat to a jetty or mooring where there are cleats. It’s one of the easiest knots to tie, but far from simple if you want to get it right. Once done properly, it would take a minor disaster for your vessel to become unhitched.

Pass the line entirely around the base of the cleat, under the horns. Then, make a figure-eight over the left and right horn, and to secure, turn the rope under itself to make a half hitch. You should not require any further winding or looping as it does nothing to improve the effectiveness of the knot. In fact, should you need to cast off in an emergency, by over-complicating what is a simple and elegant knot, you run the risk of making it harder to unhitch.

Best Rope Material

Two materials are best suited to dock and anchor lines: Nylon and Polypropylene. However, Nylon is the runaway favorite among the boating community.

  • Nylon — This is by far the best choice for dock line as it’s relatively cheap compared to other types, is elastic enough to absorb the weight and movement of your boat, and is UV resistant. All in all, if you want excellent shock absorbency, choose Nylon.
  • Polypropylene — This line is the cheapest of them all, and it shows. It does have attributes; it floats, for one thing, making it ideal should you need to retrieve it from the water, and it does offer some UV resistance. However, it doesn’t last as long as Nylon and lacks the elasticity needed to absorb all that movement. Polypropylene is a great alternative if you’re looking for the cheapest option, but it could be a false economy.

The 6 Best Dock Lines for Securing Vessels

It comes as no surprise that the dock lines I have featured are all Nylon, given its popularity and reasonable cost. It’s also the material I prefer for my dock lines.

Through this list, I’ll demonstrate that Nylon dock lines don’t have to break the bank. And although more expensive varieties are available, I  have divided the ropes into budget and premium sections.

Budget Dock Lines

Preview
Shoreline Marine Double Braided Nylon Dock Line
Crown Sporting Goods 15-Foot Double-Braided 3/8" Thick Nylon Dockline (Blue)
SEACHOICE Double-Braid Nylon Dock Line 3/8" x 15' 40291 Black
Amarine Made 1/2 Inch 25 FT Double Braid Nylon Dockline Dock Line Mooring Rope Double Braided Dock Line (Black)
Item
Shoreline Double-Braided Nylon Dock Line
Crown Sporting Goods Double-Braided Dock Line
Seachoice Nylon Dock Line 
Amarine Made Nylon Dock Line
Material
Nylon
Nylon
Nylon
Nylon
Thickness Range
1/2 - 3/8 in
3/8 in
1/2 - 5/8 in
1/2 in
Length Range
15 - 25 ft
25 ft
20 - 35 ft
25 ft
Preview
Shoreline Marine Double Braided Nylon Dock Line
Item
Shoreline Double-Braided Nylon Dock Line
Material
Nylon
Thickness Range
1/2 - 3/8 in
Length Range
15 - 25 ft
Check Price
Preview
Crown Sporting Goods 15-Foot Double-Braided 3/8" Thick Nylon Dockline (Blue)
Item
Crown Sporting Goods Double-Braided Dock Line
Material
Nylon
Thickness Range
3/8 in
Length Range
25 ft
Check Price
Preview
SEACHOICE Double-Braid Nylon Dock Line 3/8" x 15' 40291 Black
Item
Seachoice Nylon Dock Line 
Material
Nylon
Thickness Range
1/2 - 5/8 in
Length Range
20 - 35 ft
Check Price
Preview
Amarine Made 1/2 Inch 25 FT Double Braid Nylon Dockline Dock Line Mooring Rope Double Braided Dock Line (Black)
Item
Amarine Made Nylon Dock Line
Material
Nylon
Thickness Range
1/2 in
Length Range
25 ft
Check Price

Shoreline Double-Braided Nylon Dock Line

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Shoreline dock lines are available in four colors: black, blue, gold and white.

Without kinking or rotating under pressure, they have a dedicated loop on one end and a straight end on the other to let you decide what configuration you want to use when tying the boat to the dock.

Soft to the touch, these lines won’t rub or scrape your boat. And because they’re double-braided Nylon, they’re super-strong with a load capacity of 1,140 pounds and a tensile breaking load of 5,700 pounds.

That’s enough to weather heavy conditions.

  • Material: Nylon
  • Thickness Range: 1/2 – 3/8 in
  • Length Range: 15 – 25 ft

Crown Sporting Goods Double-Braided Dock Line

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These Crown lines are available in black, blue, red and white, making them easily visible as they match your vessel’s color combinations.

This rope is available in a 3/8-inch diameter and a length of 15 feet, which means it’s ideal for a boat of a maximum size of 25 feet.

The double-braided Nylon construction can withstand load pressures of up 3,200 pounds and is also UV, abrasion and mildew resistant.

I like this rope, especially for docking smaller craft.

  • Material: Nylon
  • Thickness Range: 3/8 in
  • Length Range: 25 ft

Seachoice Nylon Dock Line 

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This Seachoice range is available in eight color combinations, ranging from vibrant red to black.

It has been designed to absorb dynamic shock loads, spreading the load’s distribution through elasticity.

It’s mildew and mold resistant and comfortable on the hands.

This line has a working load capacity of 800 pounds with a maximum tensile load of 4,000 pounds, making it capable of securing a vessel of around 4,400 pounds.

  • Material: Nylon
  • Thickness Range: 1/2 – 5/8 in
  • Length Range: 20 – 35 ft

Amarine Made Nylon Dock Line

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These Amarine lines are available in black, blue, white and a white/gold combo, and have a load capacity of 968 pounds with a breaking capacity of 4,840 pounds.

This line is resistant to chemicals, acids, saltwater and UV rays, making it an ideal line for securing small to medium-size vessels.

  • Material: Nylon
  • Thickness Range: 1/2 in
  • Length Range: 25 ft

Premium Dock Lines

Preview
SeaSense Double Braid Nylon Dockline, 1/2-Inch X 15-Foot, Black
Norestar Double Braided Nylon Dock Line/Boat Mooring Rope, 50 feet by 3/4 inch, Black
Item
SeaSense Double-Braided Dock Line
Norestar Double-Braided Dock Line
Material
Nylon
Nylon
Thickness Range
1/2 - 3/8 in
1/2 - 5/8 in
Length Range
15 - 25 ft
15 - 50 ft
Preview
SeaSense Double Braid Nylon Dockline, 1/2-Inch X 15-Foot, Black
Item
SeaSense Double-Braided Dock Line
Material
Nylon
Thickness Range
1/2 - 3/8 in
Length Range
15 - 25 ft
Check Price
Preview
Norestar Double Braided Nylon Dock Line/Boat Mooring Rope, 50 feet by 3/4 inch, Black
Item
Norestar Double-Braided Dock Line
Material
Nylon
Thickness Range
1/2 - 5/8 in
Length Range
15 - 50 ft
Check Price

SeaSense Double-Braided Dock Line

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This SeaSense dock line is intended for use with vessels that are at the lighter end of the spectrum; think dinghy or small fishing boat. It has a 410-pound load capacity with a breaking strength of 3,900 pounds.

The eyelet is 10 inches in diameter, and this rope offers the elasticity that all good Nylon ropes should have.

It comes in black, blue and a gold sheened white, making the springs and lines easily visible in poor conditions.

And because it’s inexpensive compared to other lines, it may be the ideal choice for beginner boaters.

  • Material: Nylon
  • Thickness Range: 1/2 – 3/8 in
  • Length: 15 – 25 ft

Norestar Double-Braided Dock Line

Check price on Amazon

Norestar lines are extremely robust and have a high breaking strength.

The 1/2-inch diameter rope has a breaking load pressure of 8,300 pounds, while the 3/4-inch thickness has a tensile load capacity of 19,100 pounds. That means it will hold a vessel of over 18,000 pounds! These dock lines are also abrasion-proof and UV resistant, so should withstand the elements.

  • Material: Nylon
  • Thickness Range: 1/2 – 5/8 in
  • Length Range: 15 – 50 ft

Final Thoughts

Never underestimate the importance of a good quality dock line. It’s one of the most important tools any boater can have. Choose a cheap dock line at your peril, especially if you leave your boat docked for the winter when the weather is at it’s worst.

In addition, Consider the line’s working capacity, maximum breaking strength and shock-absorbing qualities. Once you have all this checked, make sure that you remember the rule about 1/8th of an inch in diameter for every 9 feet of boat length, and you won’t go wrong.