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Q&A - Spring Lines

Q: What is the proper way to use a spring line?

Q: What is the proper way to use a spring line?

A: Static spring lines run forward and aft from your amidships cleats at an acute angle to the hull and prevent the boat from surging back and forth.

Active spring lines are used to assist with close-quarter maneuvering. For example, a strong wind and current is holding your port side against a face dock with boats directly off the bow and stern. To depart moving forward, run a spring line from your port stern cleat to a dockside piling or cleat that is well forward of your bow. Release your bow and stern lines. Turn the helm hard to port, engage reverse gear, and gently apply throttle. The bow will swing out to starboard. To depart backing out, the spring line should be run from your bow or farthest forward cleat to a dockside piling well aft. Turn the helm to port, release the bow and stern lines, and engage forward gear. The stern will swing out to starboard.

A common mistake when using spring lines is improperly securing the line around the deck cleat. A spring line’s tail should be led first to the horn of the cleat opposite the direction from which the strain will be applied. This ensures that the angle between the axis of the part of the spring line under tension and the axis of the cleat will be 90 degrees or less.

Tension on the spring line must be controlled at all times, and the line occasionally will need to be taken in or let out. To control tension, put a half turn or an “S” turn around the cleat horn.

To retrieve a spring line without assistance from shore, you can “double” the line. Secure the line’s eye around the selected deck cleat, run the standing part of the line around the piling or dock cleat, and run the tail back on board, securing it to the original cleat. Retrieving the line is a simple matter of releasing the tail and quickly pulling the standing part back on board.