I've got a growing collection of spare lines in my boat's lockers. Should I keep them all or get rid of some?
Mark Matthews responds:
Spring is a good time to assess the compliment of lines you use for docking and mooring. Of course itís always tempting to keep older lines around as spares, and while thereís nothing particularly wrong with this, it's important to make sure that your primary docking and mooring lines are appropriately sized for their use and are in good shape.
I recommend nylon rope for docking and mooring lines because this material stretches and can absorb the shock loads that occur from wakes, waves, or current. For boats up to 60 feet LOA, I recommend using up to 7/8ths-inch diameter line, and though overkill regarding size isnít a bad idea, keep in mind that dock lines must occasionally be used quickly and sometimes need to be thrown, so they shouldn't be too big. Pre-cut dock lines that you buy in marine stores often come with an eye splice in one end. Thatís the end that you should make off to the dock so that you can adjust the dock line without leaving your vessel. Regarding the other end of the line, make sure that itís not frayed and is either properly seized, back-spliced, burned, or bound with tape or seizing device like heat-shrink tubing. (Yes the latter two methods will offend purists, but they do work.)
Proper docking requires not only bow and stern lines, but also spring lines and occasionally breast lines. So, to answer your question, some of the lines you have on board may not really be spares. Make sure you have enough dedicated lines on board for any potential docking situation. And keep in mind that dock lines are the wrong place to skimp when it comes to expenses because itís your and your boatís safety at stake.