Dealing with Tails

When you pull into a marina slip and tie up, you will find that you have long tails leading away from the cleats. This is where the dilemma on what to do with the tails comes into play. There are several common options on what to do with these tails:

Jumble mess
Stretch out
Send it back to the boat

One of the most common ways people deal with tails is they leave them as a jumbled mess. Neighboring boaters will not appreciate this method and these tangles can easily become a tripping hazard and the knots they form can become a nuisance when you need to extend the dockline in a hurry.

Coils are flat and elegant. One very common coil is called the Flemish Flake which is quick and easy to make. Passer byes will appreciate these coils because they look neat and tidy and show that you take the time to make sure your boat and all of its parts are kept in order. It's these little details that other boaters will pick up on as they make their quick judgments on your boating credibility. The problem I have found with coils is drunk boaters tend to grab the center and stretch it out. They are just doing harmless pranks on other boats, but after a few incidents, my patience grows thin for this prank.

Chains are another alternative to coils. Chains also keep the excess line in a neat and tidy package that is not as enticing to pull apart. Chains are bulky instead of flat, but can be easily tucked up to the cleat or edge of the pier. This way they are out of the way of foot traffic, yet neatly organized. Chains are easy to release in a hurry by pulling on the end, and also help with neighbors split second judgment about your boating skills. The problem with chains is if they are left in place for a long time (longer than one month), they will become stiff and are hard to pull apart. This leads us to our next option!

Stretch the lines out. By stretching the lines out along the edge of the pier, they are out of the way of foot traffic, and still relatively neatly organized. The lines are prone to falling into the water, which is why frequent inspection is crucial. If the line lives in the water, a reef will begin to live on the line. The amount of life that can form on a floating line may seem appealing to the observer, until you have to grab that part of the line. For long term docking, I personally prefer to stretch the lines out, that way when we take our dock lines with us for long trips, they don't have odd twists and kinks in them.

The last option is to send the tail back to the boat. This resolves all the problems of what to do with the docklines on the pier, but I don't see this practice done much. This only works if the dockline is excessively long, as the line needs to run the path from the boat cleat to the pier cleat and then back to the boat with enough to secure the line on deck and avoid it from falling into the water. If the line isn't long enough to reach the pier and back, this is not a viable option.

How do you manage the excess tails of your dock lines?