We are fortunate in the Great Lakes not to have to worry about hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis, however we do deal with our fair share of nasty weather.  As lifelong Great Lakes’ boaters will tell you – it is important that you never underestimate the power of the Lakes.   Each boating season we experience at least a couple periods of sustained heavy winds and many isolated thundershowers that can really pack a punch to all boats big and small.  The storm we had this past Sunday showed wind gusts up to 58 knots!

Weather like this often leaves even the most seasoned sailors somewhat nervous – and not about being lost at sea but about the damage their boat could sustain at the dock!  Although there is no 100% guarantee that certain lines or fenders will prevent damage during a blow, there are ways to greatly reduce the risk.  Below we have listed what we feel are the best practices for tying up your boat.

  1. Use 5 lines – 2 bow lines, 2 stern lines, and a spring line (located at mid ship the spring line  keeps the boat from shooting forward into the dock). If you are in a situation where a 2nd stern line does not work because there is a boat next to you – use a 2nd spring line instead and set up the 2nd spring line so it stops the boat from going astern.
  2. The bow and stern lines should be loose enough to accommodate water level fluctuations. Although the Great Lakes are not tidal – we do experience water level changes based on wind direction and air pressure – plus there is the rare seiche where the water drops drastically in a very short period of time. If the bow and stern lines are extremely tight when the water drops the weight of the boat goes onto the lines and quite often breaks them. 
  3. When possible tie your fenders to the dock – horizontally. The traditional cylindrical fender is great when traveling however, when your boat is moving back and forth along the dock vertical fenders can roll behind a post leaving your boat rubbing against the dock.DSCF8577
  4. For all sailors make sure that your sails are properly secured – for roller furling jibs or genoas this means cleating off both jib sheets and the furling line and rolling the jib up a couple extra turns so the sheet wraps around it a few times is also very helpful. For furling mains this includes cleating off the outhaul and both the furl in and furl out lines in addition to making sure that when furled there is only about a foot of the clew is visible outside of the mast.DSCF8572

Of course there is never any guarantee when it comes to mother nature but if you follow these four guidelines you will be assured that you have done your best to properly secure your boat.