Often called dock line, dock rope is essential to the proper outfit of any boat. In addition to tying the boat to the dock, dock rope is also good for knot tying, splicing, tying to an anchor to prevent drift and tying protective fenders to a boat when moored.
When choosing dock rope, there are many variables to consider, such as braiding, width, length and chafe protection. A well-outfitted boat will have at least six dock ropes. Their length will depend upon how and where an owner docks his or her vessel. Dock rope is either made of natural or synthetic fibers. These fibers are twisted, plaited or braided into yarns and grouped together to form strands, which are then twisted, plaited or braided together to form rope.
Natural dock rope is made of the organic product of plant fiber. The most common materials used for this purpose are manila, sisal, hemp and cotton. Manila, the strongest, most expensive and most widely used of these materials, is made from the fibers of the abaca plant. Natural dock rope is strong, though not as strong as synthetic rope, resistant to UV ray damage and abrasive surfaces. However, it does not hold up well against the threat of rot, mildew and deterioration, and it has comparably poor chemical resistance. For these reasons, synthetic rope is more commonly used for dock rope.
Synthetic dock rope is constructed using man-made materials. The main types of rope used aboard boats are nylon, dacron, polyethylene and polypropylene. Out of these four, nylon is the most widely used, valued for its superior strength, elasticity, resistance to weather and relative affordability. Polypropylene is well-known, recognized as the bright yellow cord commonly used to tow skiers, tubers and boarders. It is not as popular for docking, however, as it is has a short lifespan and degrades easily in the sun. The general advantages of synthetic rope are: strength, moisture related deterioration resistance, UV ray and weathering damage resistance and elasticity. Its disadvantages include susceptibility to chafing and a slickness that make it difficult to knot.