The Bosun's Locker



Joe shares wisdom on what it takes to successfully cruise.  Tips on boat maintenance, line handling, organizational skills and more.

                           DOCK/MOORING LINE HANDLING
 There is an art to heaving a dock line and securing your vessel to a pier. You may say "what art? You just toss the line to the the guy waiting on the dock". Au contraire Mon frere! (My Brother!)
I have witnessed countless attempts, by deckhands, who coil up a dock line and just toss the whole coil that hits the dock line handler full on in the face, chest and legs. I don't know about you, but when that happens to me, I tend to keep my arms out in front of me, elbows locked, head held back, eyes kind of closed and step back. A sort of defensive stance so I don't lose an eye or receive a split lip... This results in the handler not knowing where the bitter end* is, thus disabling the dock line handler to be sharp with their securing of the mooring line.(and in tight channels and marina's, you need to be "Quick's the word and Sharp's the action")**
 Being the Bosun perfectionist that I try to be,(see: Webster's Dictionary--anal retentive). Here is the proper way I learned in the U.S. Navy to heave a mooring line to a dock line handler. He will appreciate you not hitting him in the face, chest, it will  be easier for you to make a second attempt if the dock line handler misses your line toss. 
Okay, so let's say you have a 30 foot mooring line you are going to toss to the waiting dock line handler. Most of the time you heave a dock line it will be no more that 20 feet at the most.
 First, secure one bitter end of the line to the cleat on the boat. DUH!
Starting with the bitter end,Make 3-4 coils about 6 ft. Set it down on the deck. This is the part you will heave to the dock line handler. Do it again 3-4 times. Set this aside.This is your reserve line. You now have two coils of line.
When you toss the heaving line, you should use your dominate hand to heave. If your are right handed you naturally have more strength and control in you right hand. Vice-versa if you our left handed. This way you can aim directly at the dock line handler confidently.
 You need momentum to heave the line. With your heaving part of the line start with you arm straight out in front of you. Swing your arm behind you 180 degrees. This starts your momentum. Bring you arm forward like an under hand toss. Let the line go when you arm is straight out in front of you but continue up until your arm is straight up over your head. Following through makes sure the line reaches the dock line handler. All the while your reserve line is in your opposite hand.
 Now the  line handler doesn't have 30 feet of coiled rope heading for their face. Just a small bit of line that they can see the bitter end and feel, more in control of the line. If your dock line handler misses the line you still have the reserve line in your hand which your can release to insure your toss makes it to the dock line handler or you can quickly retrieve the line and attempt another toss.
To practice, while on terra firma, take a piece of line and aim it at some object about 15-20 feet from you and heave it until you can nail your target 10 out of 10 times.
You will become proficient and capable at dock/mooring line handling. You will have the confidence of your captain, plus you will look Sharp with your Action!
Talk to you the next time in,
The Bosun's Locker
 *Bitter end-the end of a rope
** from the movie “Master and Commander”