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Loop Lovers meet the Bitter End
An argument for losing an eye
May 2022

Friends, do not use the dock line eye ends on your boat.

Heads up. This month’s rant is a subset of previous mentions.
john rahm
Captain John Rahm

Perhaps my thoughts got buried in one of my typically wordy paragraphs. Or perhaps this unsolicited advice on eye ends did not take root. Regardless, I am compelled to once again take up my lance and charge the windmill on behalf of the foredeck Dulcineas out there. (1605, Don Quixote, considered the first modern novel.)

Opening arguments
Bailiff: Your honor, this is the case of the eye end loop lovers versus Captain John Rahm, bitter end advocate. The opening arguments are from the loop lovers.

Loop Lovers argument number 1
It is easier to drop a dock line loop onto the boat cleat. “John, I want my significant other to just drop the loop on the boat cleat. He/she is not good at cleat hitches.”

Loop Lovers argument number 2 “The dock masters insist, the bitter ends must be on the pier so they can adjust the lines without boarding; it is marina policy.”

Your honor, the loop lovers rest…

Now from Captain John, the bitter end aboard advocate
Bitter end argument number 1 By keeping the excess line on the boat, when getting underway, one can place/stretch the lines in the direction of return and make it easier to retrieve the lines from/off the pier. So, instead of being coiled on the pier, the now lengthy lines are hung on the pilings or pier so they are more easily snatched with a boat pole.

Sadly, I see short bow line eye ends tossed forward onto the piers. When returning, there is no way to retrieve these lines without jumping off the boat. Then, an additional line handler is required on the foredeck to catch the line and get the eye on the cleat. Into the wind, with only a couple aboard, there is no way this is going to end well.

Lines with an eye may be popular, but they’re not smart.

With no upwind line on the boat, the helmsperson is required to abandon the driving to help get the short-line eye end aboard and onto the cleat. During this rodeo, the boat next to is in danger of being struck. I see it a lot.

Docking into the wind with short line eyes aboard is a good way to test the quality of your insurance.

Bitter end argument number 2
Why put a splice (eye) on a cleat when you do not have to?

Dock lines come with spliced eyes so we do not have to tie bowlines thus weakening the line. Knots weaken lines. The spliced eyes are best used for looping pilings when there is no other option. In a storm, do you want your boat secured on a cleat with spliced line (eye) or a line simply cleated without a splice? I choose no splice.

Eye ends are formed by splicing. Splices usually part before the line. And, did Mark at Zimmerman’s or Ray at SailCraft splice your lines? Or were they spliced by an underage child in a Chinese sweatshop? (Too much? Sorry.) Who splices matters. Triple braid splicing is transparent. But, who knows what is going on inside that double braid jacket? Is the splice lock stitched and whipped?

Side Salad
As a side note, when tying off to a dock, do not trust a cleat. It is best to get around a piling.

In a storm, cleats get pulled from the piers. Cleats without backing plates are particularly vulnerable. Hang your head under your marina pier. Are there backing plates for the dock cleats? Anyway, eye or not, get around a piling if you can.

A cleat hitch with no eye.

Bitter end argument number 3
If the marina insists on keeping the eyes on the boat in order to adjust the lines shore side, then cut the eyes from your dock lines.

Yes. There, I said it. Cut the eyes off your dock lines, melt and whip the ends. No loops.

Everyone can have it their way. Dock masters can adjust the lines from the pier. Boaters can set up their slips for easier docking. Obviously, keep the eyes on the pilings you cannot reach.

Bitter end argument number 4
Sadly while getting underway and with eye ends tight on the cleats, I see foredeck crew struggling to remove the lines. Eye ends on the boat – stern lines, spring lines and bow lines all tight.

Right from the get-go, the day has not started well. Unaware, or even worse not caring, the helmsperson impatiently watches the struggle. What starts poorly, often goes poorly. I do not wonder why some folks do not enjoy boating.

Remedy: cut the eyes off the dock lines. Be cleat hitch experts. Uncleating and throwing off dock lines becomes super easy and a non-event. Never struggle to remove a line for the rest of your life. Think about it. Make docking easy.

My father, self-proclaimed modern day oracle, said, “People are gonna do what they’re gonna do” (profound). So, individual cases and situations vary. When undocking/docking, motoring forward against a spring line aft might change the situation.


Generally, I like no eyes anywhere.
On piers, I like multiple wraps around pilings with the bitter ends neatly cleated allowing for adjustment.
On boats, I like cleated bitter ends with a lot of excess for hanging/positioning lines for returning.
Mark the lines where they are cleated.
I only like eyes on the pilings I cannot reach.

Some folks need a visual aid:


That’s it. I am not writing about eye ends anymore.

Fair Winds,
Captain John Rahm,
Bitter End Aboard Advocate
Third Wave Sailing

Related links
• Learn to Tie a Cleat Hitch with New Year’s Boat-er-lutions

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Captain's Blog on TownDock.net is all about making your time on the water enjoyable. Captain John Rahm teaches sailing and boat handling at Third Wave Sailing.