Sunday, January 26, 2014

Creaking Dock Lines

While I've spent some time on boats, I've never lived on one parked at a marina for a couple months straight (our boat has been tied up in this marina since December) so I was not aware of how much dock lines can creak and groan.  But the other night the winds were up a bit and our boat was regularly tugging at her dock lines.  And each time a line pulled taut, it would creak or groan.  This is not something that is conducive to sleep, especially when one of the cleats  is attached to your bedroom.  The sound travels through the line and straight into the boat.

So, after a rather sleepless night, I decided to do a little investigating since I'm sure I'm not the first person to experience this.  Sure enough I found a number of discussions on the subject and various remedies.  The cause is apparently friction and can normally occur in a few key ways.  Rubbing against the boat seems the most obvious, especially if you have lines running through hawse pipes (holes in a boat designed for anchor and dock lines to pass through the hull to a cleat or storage).  They can also rub a bit against the cleat itself and lines can also creak due to internal friction.  None of these are good as the friction causes wear.

The quick fix seems to be to wet the lines and that helps lubricate the fibers and help prevent the friction and the noise. I went out with a jug of water and soaked each of the lines and they immediately quieted down.  Of course this is not a permanent solution unless it rains a which case you likely won't be getting the noise anyway.  There are various chafe guard options from ones you can buy to making your own out of old rubber hose and similar materials.  This should work if your lines are rubbing on the boat, but I don't know how it would work for noise at the cleat and I'm pretty sure it won't work for the internal noise.

Many of the dock lines I have came with the boat and are rather old and I have no idea the last time they were washed ( need to wash dock lines regularly to remove dried salt that causes excess wear).  Because of this they are also fairly stiff to handle and use.  I had heard one recommendation to soften lines by soaking them in a bucket of water with some fabric softener.  Since the water worked for quieting down the lines, I decided it was time to give the fabric softener idea a try.

I grabbed some cheap fabric softener at the store and started soaking some spare lines I had in a mixture that was fairly heavy on the fabric softener.  I let them soak for a couple hours and then pulled them out to dry a little.  I then swapped out the lines with ones in use and gave them a soak as well.  The last couple days I haven't had any more creaking, so hopefully that will help for a little while.  In the end I probably need to get some new dock lines as most of the ones I have are rather old and some are not in the best of shape...maybe I can find ones that are better about creaking...who knows (if you do...please share).  And for those following along that are still in the earlier stages, hopefully this info will help spare you a sleepless night at a dock.

Of course, the ideal solution is to not be tied to a dock so long...but while all the work is being done, I will unfortunately be tied up a bit longer.


  1. As you mentioned, the best remedy is to be off the dock!

    I tend to like a fan on at night when I sleep. The white noise is a plus. Your at the dock so the power use isn't a big deal.

    When possible, we also tie off on both sides of the boat (in a single load slip or if we don't have a neighbor). This reduces the sound quite a bit too.

    In the end, you will get used to it.

    Good luck and fair winds,


    1. Hey Jesse,

      Due to the cold temps, I've actually had the reverse cycle AC running in heat mode most evenings. The lines were getting bad enough that the creaking was drowning out the drone of the AC.

      Treating the lines seems to have helped a great deal.

    2. Oh...and you can ask my wife...I can sleep through a this was getting pretty loud. ;-)

  2. Really enjoy your blog....been following from the beginning. Good luck..... we are too far behind you guys, closing on our boat in May and leaving next winter.

    Greg & Dahleen
    sv Knot Tide Down

    1. Hey Greg & Dahleen,

      Glad you are enjoying it! Doesn't sound like you are far behind at all. Took a quick peek at your blog...but didn't see much detail about your boat. I can't imagine what it must be like planning this sort of thing from Afganistan...I thought it was bad enough from Colorado.

      Good luck with your plans, hope everything stays on track for you for a winter departure.