a boat that has used the correct mooring ropes

Choosing the best rope for mooring a boat

Going sailing or boating?

Be sure to invest in the correct mooring ropes. Not only do they provide additional safety for you and your passengers, they can also prevent a lot of unnecessary damage (and expense!) – and are, arguably, one of the most important pieces of equipment onboard.

Three mooring lines are often used to moor a boat:

  • Bow line – which secures the bow to the dock
  • Stern line – which holds the stern of the boat to the dock
  • Spring line – to prevent any surges backwards and forwards

When buying these mooring lines, there are three main factors to consider. Here we outline each in turn and offer our expert advice on the best products available.


3 factors to consider when buying rope for mooring


1. Length

As a general rule-of-thumb, bow and stern lines should be at least half the length of your boat, and long enough to be accessible from the cockpit. Spring lines should be the full length of your boat or longer. So, first things first, take a look at your vehicle’s technical specification or get out the tape measure and establish its exact length.

It’s also a good idea to carry one additional mooring line, around five times the size of your boat. Not only will this serve as a good backup, but it could also be a great help in tough conditions.

If in any doubt, your manufacturer, club or boating forum should be able to provide advice.


2. Diameter

If you are choosing conventional mooring ropes*, then as a general rule of thumb, the bigger the boat, the thicker the mooring rope you will require. Below is a list of the most common hull lengths and the recommended rope size for each, using traditional mooring ropes.

Hull length (ft) Diameter (mm)
26 10
33 12
39 14
46 16
53 18
62 20

If your sailboat falls somewhere in between these categories, it’s usually worth opting for the bigger diameter – just to be on the safe side. For particularly heavy boats (relative to their length), we also recommend going one size up (e.g. 12mm mooring line for a 26ft hull length).


3. Material

Primarily, mooring ropes need to be strong and sturdy enough to hold the weight of your vessel securely. They also need to be able to stretch and recover from elongation – without suffering any damage or breaking. And should demonstrate good resistance to UV and abrasion.

With these desirable traits in mind, the best mooring ropes are typically made from lightweight yet robust synthetic fibres. And the three most common include polyester, polyamide (nylon) and polypropylene.

All three of these materials have their pros and cons, and the right option for you will depend on the size and weight of your boat and whether you wish to moor it on a short or long-term basis.


Polyester mooring ropes

Polyester is regarded as the all-round best option.

It’s superior in terms of strength, even when subjected to prolonged or repeated stress. It resists wear and tear from the environment – particularly UV and abrasion. Plus, it absorbs very little water and doesn’t shrink when wet.

Polyester mooring lines are the least elasticated option out of the three. However, they still typically demonstrate sufficient stretch for most mooring applications. And the ability to absorb surge loads can always be enhanced with mooring compensators.


Polyamide mooring ropes (nylon)

Technically speaking, polyamide is the strongest rope for mooring. But it’s important to keep in mind, it loses 10-15% of this strength once submerged in water – which means, when used for mooring, it offers approximately the same level of strength as polyester rope.

It also matches polyester in terms of UV and abrasion resistance.

However, as polyamide absorbs water and shrinks when wet, the rope strands tend to tighten – leading to a harder and stiffer rope. This can be beneficial for permanent or long-term moorings.


Polypropylene mooring ropes

Polypropylene ropes absorb virtually no water, and as they float, they can be easier to handle. They’re also typically cheaper, offering greater value for money for those on a budget.

However, they’re not comparable to polyester or polyamide with regard to strength or durability. And therefore, they should only really be selected if you wish to take advantage of the fact they float.

Mooring ropes available at RopesDirect

* As an aside, we have supplied 48mm HMPE rope for use as a mooring rope, but we suspect this was for a pretty huge commercial vessel – not an everyday mooring rope that the average skipper would need!


Mooring rope at RopesDirect

So, whether you’re the new proud owner of a dingy, sailboat, narrowboat, motorboat or high-end yacht, we guarantee – here at RopesDirect – we have the ideal ropes for mooring.

In most cases, we recommend the Kingfisher Ready-Spliced Docklines. Constructed with a polyester cover and a braided nylon cord, these offer the best of both materials and boast all of the important qualities outlined above. And they come in a broad spectrum of diameters (12-16mm) and colours, with something to suit most boat styles and sizes.

We also stock 3-strand polyester ropes and 3-strand multifilament polypropylene ropes.

Whichever option you choose, all of our mooring ropes for boats and dock lines are available for a competitive price. And with ample stock in our warehouse, they’re eligible for next working day delivery.

So, why not take a look today? Select the ideal mooring ropes from our collection, check out our blog on ‘how to moor a boat with the correct ropes’ and ensure you’re fully prepared.

If you have any questions or would like further advice on the best rope to moor your boat, you’re welcome to get in touch at any time. Our team have excellent knowledge of the products available and they’re always happy to help. Just send an email to info@ropesdirect.co.uk.


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