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Posted by on Jul 18, 2013 in Ask the Expert, Do It Yourself, How To, Safety and Seamanship, Video | 2 comments

How Do You Cleat a Line? Sounds So Easy

Putting a line on a cleat may seem like a simple task, but many new boaters never learn how to do it properly – and as a result, their boat may leave the dock without them.

Ever come back from a meal ashore to find your boat dangling from one line… or worse still, floating away across the harbor? Making a line fast to a dock cleat seems like it should be very straightforward, but even the Navy and the Coast Guard have different methods. And bringing up the topic in any waterfront bar could lead to a fistfight. So how can you to learn this simple task without worrying that the line will either come loose or turn into tangled mess that won’t ever come uncleated?

Fortunately  Senior Editor Lenny Rudow has taken the time to walk through his favorite four step method in this 40 second video.

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And if you’re a new boater, you might also want to check out some other tips from our vault.

How to Dock a Boat, our Top 10 Tips
10 Trailering Tips: Haul Your Boat with Confidence
How to use a VHF Radio
10 Tips for Boating with Kids

Got a line cleating story to share, good or bad? Tell us about it in the comments below.


  1. Morning Larry,
    I have a slight problem with your cleat tying demonstration.

    1. I don’t recommend wrapping the line completely around the base. There is a chance the line going to the dock could over-ride the turn causing the line to jam. If it was necessary to play the line out you could have a problem.

    2. It is not necessary to put 2 half hitches on the cleat. Again, it increases the chance of a jam.

    For the record, I have had a 100 ton ocean captain’s license for 45 (yes, 45!) years. I’ve sailed all of the East Coast, Bahamas, Great Lakes, Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast. I’ve seen more jammed cleats than one would care to discuss. When docking in a hazardous situation the last thing you want is a jammed cleat. A line under strain that breaks can cause serious injury.

    Jim R.

  2. Hey Jim – thanks for your comments, you certainly make valid points. I’d respond that I tried to make clear that this is a method that will NOT come free, and that different people/organizations favor slightly different methods (ie Chapman Piloting recommends one turn but a double-wrap, the Boat-ed course used by state agencies says “one or more figure-eights,” the Navy, etc.) In fact, three of us on the film crew, all very experienced boaters, spent a few minutes discussing this issue before we shot the take and each of us favored a slightly different method.