Tips for rafting up

Table of contents

How to do it safely!


Tying up to other vessels is a great way to connect and interact with family and friends. But there is still plenty that can go wrong if you do not do it the right way. Just ask the repair guys at your marina or boat repair facility!

Fact is, there is no such thing as truly calm water. And even though tying up to other boats is usually done in calm conditions, there is always some movement, which becomes more significant the closer boats get to one another.

In addition, along with fast-rising natural conditions like wind and storms, we have the occasional socially awkward yahoo who cruises up tossing a bigger-than-safe wake.

Here are a few hints on how to tie up to other boats the right way and keep them from bouncing off each other.

  1. Choose a spot deep enough and large enough. When the boats swing at anchor, there should always be 360 degrees of space without any of the boats coming close to other boats, the shoreline or navigational aids.
  2. The biggest boat should be in the middle and set its largest anchor. All other boats will depend on that anchor, and all will swing as one
  3. Line up the boats according to size. Boat size should go from the largest out, with the smallest boats outside.
  4. Fender’s rule. The trick is to adjust the height of the fenders to match those of the boat next to you. Hang fenders in the middle of the boat as well as at the ends to keep the vessels from pivoting in and dinging each other at the edges.
  5. Ease each boat into place. Do this either by pulling up alongside or by coming in bow first and tossing a line to the neighbouring boat. This line can then be used to manually pull the boat into position.
  6. Lines should go bow to stern, then taken up snug. Breast lines (those that go from bow to bow or stern to stern) should not be used. When vessels shift due to waves or wakes, breast lines act as slingshots and slam the boats back together.
  7. Don’t anchor every boat. Other than the biggest boat in the middle, no one sets an anchor. Additional anchors will cause the boats to ride incoming wakes and waves out of sync with each other and can create collisions.
  8. Tall boats should not be tied together. As anyone who has ever spent time atop a flybridge knows, a gentle rocking on deck translates into ever-widening arcs as you get higher. Therefore, sailboats and powerboats with tall topsides should not be tied together to avoid those appendages from slamming into each other. If lofty vessels must partner, make sure their hardware is staggered.
  9. Visiting from boat to boat during a tie-up is a no-brainer, you just step right over. But there are occasions when you might also want to boat-hop in open water. This is one of those things that looks easy, but the closer two boats get, the possibilities of mishap increase. For instance, a slight swell seen from 100 yards away might not be so innocuous when vessels approach step-aboard distance.
  10. And, need we say, you should never “jump for it.”

While it may be tempting to pull two boats together stern to stern, especially when both vessels have inviting swim platforms, this practice should be strictly avoided. It is difficult to judge distances this way. The last thing you want is for the swim platforms to slam into one another, causing boat damage or, worse, sending a waiting passenger into the water.

A beam-to-beam crossing is the best way to transfer people and goods. Have the vessel with the disembarking person approach against the wind. Come in slowly with fenders deployed and have spring lines ready to toss to the other boat. Most problems during a beam-to-beam transfer will result in the vessels drifting apart, so make sure the lines are secure before anyone moves from one boat to the other.

At the moment of transfer, boat transmissions should be in neutral (i.e. the props are not turning) but both boat Master’s should be ready to engage the controls should something go unexpectedly wrong.

Once the passengers, boat bags, coolers, and whatever have been safely moved from one boat to the other, simply untie the lines and part ways.

Of course, the best place to visit from boat to boat is when both are in their respective berths. It is so much easier to just walk down the pontoon or wharf and step aboard. In other words, why leave a perfectly good boat that is not sinking?

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Firstly, when considering rafting up, especially for any length of time always consider not only the prevailing conditions but also conditions over the time you’re intending to be rafted up.

While the current conditions may be favourable there may be a sudden change forecast and if it comes in suddenly you could have major problems that lead to boat damage or injuries.


A great tip is when positioning fenders start with the midship fender then ensure all other fenders are located where the boats are likely to come together. This will be dependant upon each boats shape!

Also, when tying off fenders ensure the knot is not going to slip. If a fender slips down due to a poorly tied knot they become useless allowing boats to bang together and potentially cause costly damage!

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