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How to safely moor a boat

boat that has been moored safely

Knowing how to safely moor a boat is an essential skill for any boater, whether you are a seasoned sailor or a beginner. Proper mooring techniques not only ensure the safety of your boat, but also protect other boats and structures in the harbour. In this guide we run through the best rope for mooring ships and boats, a mooring rope size guide, as well as a comprehensive step-by-step guide to mooring a boat.

What rope is used for mooring ships?

There is a whole variety of different marine and yacht ropes that are suitable for use in and around the water. These ropes are made from a variety of synthetic materials, including nylon, polypropylene, polyester, polyethylene and polysteel. This makes the ropes strong, durable and adequate for regular use around water. Marine and yacht ropes can be purchased in different diameters and lengths, meaning you can choose the perfect sized rope for your boat, mooring location, and conditions. If you’re not sure about the best size for your mooring rope, we will run through this later in our mooring rope size guide. 

What is the best rope for mooring lines?

The best rope for mooring lines is a specialist polyester mooring rope, which is made from three strands of twisted polyester rope. Mooring ropes are soft yet incredibly strong, meaning they are reliable whilst still being easy to work with. They are low stretch, non kink, and highly water resistant, which makes them the best rope for mooring boats. 

Mooring rope size guide

Unsure of the best size for safely and effectively mooring your boat? Take a look at this handy mooring rope size guide to determine the ideal length and thickness for your mooring rope. 

Boat SizeRope diameterRope length
6 metres and smaller10mm diameter4 to 8 metres
6 to 9 metres12mm diameter7 to 10 metres
9 to 12 metres16mm diameter10 to 13 metres
12 to 15 metres20mm diameter13 to 17 metres
15 metres and larger22mm – 24mm diameter17 to 20 metres (or more)

Note: These are approximate sizes for mooring ropes. The appropriate size for a mooring rope will depend on many factors, including the weight of the boat and the conditions of your mooring location. For the most accurate estimations, please consult your boat guidebook or seek professional advice. 

How to moor a boat

Now that you have the perfect mooring rope, along with the recommendations laid out by our mooring rope size guide, let’s dive into how to safely moor a boat. 

1. Choose the location carefully

As you approach the mooring area, dock or marina, look out for a suitable location that will protect your boat once moored. Try to ensure that this location will keep your boat safe from wind and currents, although this isn’t always possible. Ideally, your boat should be moored somewhere with adequate shelter from the wind, and not too close to other boats or objects that could inflict damage. You should also ensure that the water is deep enough to prevent your boat from becoming stuck at the bottom when the tide drops.

2. Approach the mooring

It’s now time for your boat to approach the mooring. This can be difficult to do, so we’ve broken it down into three simple steps. 

1. Slow down

Mooring your boat isn’t a race. Be sure to reduce your speed so that you aren’t at risk of crashing or losing control. You should be slowed almost to a stop before attempting to manoeuvre your boat. 

2. Approach against the tides

When mooring a boat, it’s important to approach against the tides. This helps you to maintain control over your boat, minimising the risk of collisions. By moving your boat into the current, your boat’s forward momentum will reduce, making it easier to manoeuvre the boat. This is especially important when it is windy or there are strong currents. 

3. Go into neutral

Take your boat into neutral and smoothly glide into your mooring position. This will ensure you don’t have too much power moving forward. You can also carry out a few short bursts of reverse throttle to bring your boat to a standstill.

3. Get a member of crew to depart the boat

Mooring rope in hand, a member of your crew should safely depart the boat. Never jump off a boat, as the ground around bodies of water is often very slippery. To avoid slips, falls and the risk of injury, those departing the boat should always carefully step onto the ground. For this to happen, your boat must be close enough to the dock or mooring location for a person to step off the boat with caution. 

4. Secure the bow

The crew member now on the ground should secure the bow with the mooring rope. Secure the rope with a round turn and two half hitches, attaching the bow to a buoy, cleat or other object at your mooring location. Make sure to leave enough slack in the line to allow for changes in the wind direction or tide. 

5. Secure the stern

Once the bow is secured, the stern will usually drift into position with the tide. You can also gently pull in the stern by hand. Firmly tie the stern line into position, then revisit your bow line and tighten this too.

6. Adjust and check the lines

Once you have brought the boat in and secured the lines, you should check them again. One side – or both – may need readjusting, in which case you should tighten or loosen the lines accordingly. Make sure that the boat is not too close to the dock, other boats, or any other obstructions. You should also ensure that the lines are not rubbing against any sharp objects, which could cause them to fray or even break over time.

7. Turn your engine off

With the boat securely moored, turn your engine off. You should also check around the boat to make sure that any other electrical appliances are switched off. 

8. Give everything a double check

You can never be too careful when mooring a boat. Before leaving your boat, give everything a final check. This includes your lines, the position of your boat and its surroundings, and any items on board that could potentially break or fall overboard. 

Ready to grab some mooring rope and embark on a boating adventure? If you fancy a spot of fishing along the way, check out our guide: What should be in your fishing kit? For all kinds of ropes, lines and cords, get in touch with Rope Source UK to find the best rope for your project.

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How to retain good rope strength

bumper with rope

Whether you’re tying your ropes around posts, creating eye splices, or using ropes for decoration, you’ll need to keep them in tip-top condition. Unfortunately, ropes do tend to lose their strength over time, with all the bends and tying they go through, but there are things you can do to help retain good rope strength; let’s go through them. 

Using the right knots

Knots provide brilliant solutions, and there’s a wide variety of applications – from marine and yacht ropes to decking ropes. The problem lies, however, in the bending of the rope. Every time a rope is distorted, or bent around an object or itself, some of the strength is lost. When a rope is bent, some of the fibres on the outside of the curve will have to carry more weight. On top of that, parts of a rope in a knot may be compressed with the fibres not being able to move to share the load. This is why it’s important to use the right knots for certain applications. Here are the main types.

  • Alpine butterfly: Used for ‘Y’ hangs and for creating eyes in the middle of a rope. Typical retained rope strength with this is 70%.
  • Figure 8: Used for eyes, stoppers, friction hitch and to join ropes and attach them to objects. Typical retained rope strength with this knot type is 75-80%.
  • Anchor bend: Used for attaching a carabiner to the working end of a climbing line. Typical retained rope strength with the anchor bend is 80-85%.
  • Clove hitch: Used for attaching ropes to objects and great for attaching a rigging line to a limb or log being removed from a canopy. It can also be used in closing climbing systems to attach ropes to a climber’s harness before tying the friction hitch. Typical retained rope strength with the clove hitch is 60-65%.
  • Reef: This knot type is one of the weaker ones and is typically used for joining two ropes together. Typical retained rope strength with the reef ranges from 45-60%.
  • Sheet bend: Used for joining two ropes together of different sizes. Typical retained rope strength with the sheet bend is 45-60%.
  • Double fisherman: Used for attaching the working end of a climbing line to a carabiner in place of a splice. Typical retained rope strength with this one is 65-70%.
  • Round turn and two half hitches: Used for attaching a rope to an object. Typical retained rope strength with this one is 75%.
  • Bowline: Used for attaching ropes to trees for base anchors in SRS climbing systems or for attaching a rigging line to limbs or logs being lowered from a tree. Typical retained rope strength with the bowline is 70-75%.

Preventing ropes from fraying

Fraying ends are an issue for any type of rope. No matter the use, a rope can lose its strength and shape, suffer from wear and tear, all with the added burden of fraying ends. How do you combat this? You need to determine the rope’s fibre first. Is it a natural hemp rope, or a man-made one, like a polyester mooring rope? This will guide you on how to treat the ends. For instance, if the rope is plastic, burning the ends is a very effective solution for fraying because the melting plastic fibres fuse together, preventing any more strands from coming loose. 

Another method to help prevent fraying is to tape the ends. This one particularly suits your natural ropes. Duct or electrical tape can be used to cover rope ends, you just may need several layers to ensure no loose ends escape. Make sure the pieces are wide and flat to be able to fold over the end. Secure them in place by wrapping them around the rest of the rope’s end part. 

There’s also the ingenious whipping twine, which comes from a classic sailor’s trick. You simply use it to wrap the ends of your rope, and then create a whipping knot to secure the ends. For added security, you can also melt the twine a little because it’s made from a wax coating; this gives the rope’s ends a hard coating and an effective seal.

Storing the rope

When you’ve taken extra care to prevent your ropes from fraying, and made sure to use the correct knots for specific uses, you should also remember to store your ropes carefully. If you use ropes as part of your job and in a working environment, you can hang them on metal pins, but you need to consider the type of rope, as metal can oxidise and speed up the deterioration of a rope. 

Don’t leave them lying around for people to trip over or for them to get damaged. When you’re finished using the rope, make sure to coil it correctly – there is a right way to do this! Avoid coiling a rope over your head and elbow because this can cause excess twist and kinking. Instead, turn the rope as it’s being coiled. You can use a pin rail or an open hand to coil.

Drying ropes

When dealing with your natural ropes, especially manila rope, whenever it gets wet, you must dry it. This is extremely important because of its make-up. The organic hemp will rot if left damp. Just make sure to hang the ropes so the air can circulate. Keep checking them for any signs of rotting and deterioration. When manila ropes get wet, they can give off a distinct odour, so you can also test whether they’re drying by giving them a good sniff.

Rope stress and abrasion

Overstressing your ropes plays a huge part in weakening them. Time, apathy, and poor maintenance can also affect rope strength. A little TLC goes a long way, as well as making sure you’re using the right rope for certain applications. Avoid dragging ropes over rough surfaces and make sure pulleys and sheaves are grooved depending on the rope size, to protect them from abrasion. 

Whatever the job or use, our range of ropes is incredibly extensive, covering tons of purposes. Treat them right and make sure you choose the right one for your task. Contact our friendly, knowledgeable team for any help for your rope resources.

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How to anchor a boat safely

Anchoring a boat

Whatever the weather, come rain or shine, you need to be able to anchor a boat safely and correctly. 

Why do we anchor?

It’s not all plain sailing at sea, or on rivers and lakes, and we often need a stop or break, sometimes before we reach a port. Anchoring holds our boats in a steady position so we can break safely. Whether it’s fishing, sunbathing, sightseeing, sleeping or taking a breather, we anchor to give ourselves some time on the waters. 

How does anchoring work?

It’s all a process of digging to find a secure patch in the seabed. The anchor does this for you. When the anchor drops down, it penetrates the seabed and then the suction from the seabed’s materials and the anchor’s weight creates resistance. When the boat tugs on the anchor and rode (rope), the anchor digs in deeper to create more resistance. For more difficult seabeds, where anchors can’t dig in, they instead snag on protrusions for a hold, but this is precarious.

Check out our extensive range of anchor lines and marine and yacht ropes at Rope Source – all made in the UK!

Types of anchors

Bow and stern

This type of anchor is suited for sheltered water, like near the edge of a channel. If space is limited and conditions are settled, this is a good anchor technique. This involves a primary and secondary anchor with the primary anchor attached to the bow of the boat and the secondary anchor attached to the stern. By securing the second anchor to the stern, you eliminate swing, but you need to factor in treacherous waters; that’s why it’s more suited for sheltered water.  

The Bahamian moor

This type of anchor is best for situations where there is limited space and poor holding. It allows for a boat to swing in a circle motion and is good for limiting your swing and if you want to avoid your anchor having to reset when the tide turns. Like the bow and stern, this is better for waters where you can see the bottom, where there is poor holding. With this technique, once you set both anchors, you don’t need to move again until you leave the anchorage. The primary anchor needs to be laid uptide, the second should be laid downtide with both rodes taken through the bow roller so that there is a fixed point for the boat to swing from in a circular motion.

It can be trickier to set up though. When laying the second anchor, you either need to lay it from a dinghy, or drop back by double your intended scope with the first anchor. Because it’s near impossible to lay out a chain rode, you should have a mooring rope or rope and chain combo rode on your second anchor. If you buoy the second anchor rode and let it slip, retrieval is easier. 

V anchors

You can anchor a number of boats together with a ‘v’ anchor. Again, for areas where there is poor holding, unpredictable weather conditions and limited space, this is a suitable anchor technique. The name comes from the ‘v’ shape you create by anchoring two anchor hooks angled between 45 and 90 degrees. You deploy the anchors by laying the first one as normal with the boat dropping back for the anchor hook to set. From there, motor upwind or uptide to one side of the first anchor. Lay the second anchor at a similar distance from the intended resting place. 

Drop back before setting the second anchor. To retrieve anchors, motor up to each anchor in turn. This technique can allow you to lay an anchor towards an expected wind shift and gives you more chances for a better anchor holding, especially in inconsistent weather conditions and shallower waters. 

Tandem anchors

For rougher weather conditions, tandem anchors are best, especially where there is poor holding. You can lay two anchors in a line, when wind is expected to stay in that same direction. This is where you need chains to help keep the anchorage strong. The second anchor is lowered and set first by extending from the first anchor, allowing the full chain to lay out, before lowering the primary anchor. 

Between the second and first anchor, you’ll need a floating retrieval line that can have one end attached to the shank of the primary anchor with the other end attached to the shank of the secondary anchor.   

Safety tips for anchoring a boat


Setting your anchor right needs applied tension to the rode so the anchor digs deep into the bottom. Sailors apply power in reverse to help with this. If your boat moves, you’ll need to reset the anchor and try again.


Wind directions and weather conditions are always changing on us. You can have different anchors set up to help deal with this but you may have to reset, especially if an anchor gets dislodged from a large boat swing. To help alert you, here are some safety techniques:

  • Chartplotters can have an anchor alarm set up to alert you if the boat swings too far out from your anchor point
  • You can also set maximum and minimum anchor alarms on a depth sounder to alert you on significant water depth changes, which indicates your drifting direction (away or towards the shore)
  • Set a course alarm to alert you of any radical changes to your boat’s heading on an electronic compass or autopilot
  • Use an anchor watch to detect any changes in position by taking bearings on certain landmarks when you anchor

Rocky bottoms

The seabed isn’t going to be always smooth and flat. You may want to anchor down at a poor-holding area. It’s why you have a number of anchoring techniques to help deal with these rocky bottoms. Use a robust one that works for your boat and gauge the weather at all times. Again, if it’s not secure or your boat has swung out too much, reset the anchor. Make sure your anchor is made of high structural strength – grapnel-type or plow-shaped anchors work well

Back-up anchor

It’s advised to carry at least two anchors (preferably different ones) in case one gets lost. You can also use a different one to suit a different condition, as it may work better. Two anchors also give you more anchoring options, like the ‘bow and stern’ and ‘tandem’. 

It’s important to remember that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all anchor. Certain ones can work better for different situations, so having more than one on board is definitely a good idea. When you’re out on the water, and the weather turns, you need to rely on more than one anchor, just in case. You’ll also need to have guides with you on board to help anyone with setting up different types of anchors. 

When it comes to choosing a rode and your anchor lines, there is quite the range out there! Here at Rope Source, we are the rope experts, so get in touch with us to talk through marine and yacht ropes, or call us on 01204 897642.