How To Choose The Right Dock Line

Keep your boat safe and secure with these tips.


July 29, 2020
Boats tied up to dock
Dock lines of the right length and material will ensure the safety of your boat. Courtesy Unsplash/Sander Breneman

Dock lines are essential to keep your boat safe and secure, but for many boaters the decision probably comes down to price…or color. Educate yourself about the best materials and sizes to choose the right dock line for your boat and docking scenario.

Shoreline Marine Double Braided Nylon Dock Line

Select The Best Material

Double-braid line is soft, easy to coil and comes in lots of colors to match your boat. Just be careful around pilings as that fine weave can easily snag. Courtesy Amazon

Polypropylene line (typically bright yellow in color) may be common and cheap, but it degrades rapidly from UV exposure and wear. Dacron lines quickly grow stiff. Nylon is the better choice as it resists sun, fuel and chemical damage and offers enough stretch to provide some degree of shock absorption.

SeaSense Double Braid Nylon Dockline

Consider Diameter and Length

Want custom-sized lines for your home slip? Just remember to take into account any tidal changes or anticipated changes in water level. Courtesy Amazon

Larger diameter line is often stronger, but won’t provide as much cushion when pulled taut on a rough afternoon at the dock. Your boat’s cleat size also dictates just how big a diameter line will fit properly. Boating experts suggest this rule of thumb: an 1/8-inch in diameter for every 2 inches of cleat length.


As to line length, bow and stern lines should be half the length of the boat, a spring line capable of stretching the whole length of your vessel.

Airhead AHDL-4 Bungee Dockline

Look At Convenient Alternatives

Bungee-style dock lines frequently feature foam floats, primarily to protect the hull from line chafing. Courtesy Amazon

For a temporary dock situation with a small boat (under 4,000 pounds) and little water-level fluctuation, bungee-style dock lines are a convenient alternative. The bungee cord wrapped inside provides about 1 1/2-feet of stretch and shock absorption.


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