Tying next to another boat at the dock, on a mooring buoy, or at anchor, often saves space for other boaters at marinas that may have limited space, or in coves that cannot accommodate a large number of boats.
At Docks and Marinas
Waggoner Cruising Guide includes rafting information for marinas where rafting is needed. Some marinas may have signage that says “rafting is required” or “rafting is encouraged.” Rafting is much more common at docks and marinas in Northern BC and Southeast Alaska where space is often limited. When tying-up at a marina where rafting is required, you are expected to allow another boat to tie next to you. At facilities where rafting is encouraged, it is courteous practice to allow other boats of similar size to tie-up next to you. Where the Waggoner Cruising Guide and the marina are silent on the subject, it is assumed that rafting is not commonly used at the facility, and that you are not expected to have other boats raft-up to you.
At facilities where rafting is required or encouraged, you should message your readiness for another boat to raft to you by fendering the outside of your boat. Approaching vessels should look for fenders on the outside of moored vessels, signaling that it’s ok to raft up to your boat. Boats should be of similar size or smaller. Avoid rafting larger vessels to smaller vessels and watch for fairway intrusion.
As a courtesy, ask first if the vessel captain/crew is onboard and available to assist and to provide permission. If no one is onboard and there are no fenders on the outside, wait for the captain/crew to return or find another mooring location. Use extra caution when proceeding to raft-up to another vessel. Rafting is generally limited to three deep, with the preferred being 2-deep for pleasure boats. Fish boats often raft together when the fleet is in port; it is not uncommon to see 4 or more fish boats rafted together.
Vessel Separation and Contact Considerations
As with any alongside berth, have your fenders at the right height; approach slowly with a bow and stern line and preferably a back spring line ready to prevent the tide or wind setting your yacht astern.
Fender well at all points of contact and potential contact caused by large waves and wakes from passing boats. Check the superstructure for possible contact and fender the above superstructure that may make contact. Sailboats should not have masts lined up in case you go rolling, causing spreaders to tangle. Move sailboats forward and backwards to ensure there is a decent gap between masts to allow for rolling.
Don’t forget to check for conflicting or potentially damaging discharge from generator exhaust, furnace exhaust, and bilge discharge. The best practice is to avoid all generator operation; however, if you must, run the generator only at a reasonable time, and ask the neighboring boat if it possesses any problems; let them know how long it will be running.
Accessing the Dock from Boat to Boat
Ask the captain/crew of the inner vessel about the preferred path across their boat to access the dock; some boaters may prefer that you cross through their cockpit, while others may prefer you cross over their bow. Be mindful of the number of trips across other boats and keep it to a minimum.
Departing the Raft
Rafted boats should communicate with each other their plans for departure – time, day, and agreed-upon plan to allow inner boats to depart. When tying-off to another boat, it is helpful to bring the ends of your lines back to your boat; it makes it easier for you to leave without disturbing the other boat.
Rafting on Mooring Buoys
As of 2021, rafting with other boats on a Washington State Marine Park mooring buoy is not allowed. While some marine park buoys may have old signage regarding rafting, Waggoner has been told by Washington Parks, that rafting on park mooring buoys is no longer allowed. DNR (Department of Natural Resources) mooring buoys may allow rafting, but boaters should use good judgement regarding boat size, weight, and wind conditions. Rafting to a boat on a mooring buoy has additional challenges due to swing action – have bow, stern, and spring lines and lots of fenders at the ready. Check with rules and regulations that may be posted on DNR buoys and/or onshore. There is no charge for the use of Washington State DNR buoys, which are designed for boats up to 50 feet.
Marine Park buoys in British Columbia allow 1 boat per buoy up to 50 feet, unless winds exceed 30 knots; and vessels up to 40 feet unless winds exceed 37 knots.
Most mooring buoys in Southeast Alaska are of substantial size and weight, which may allow for rafting if needed. Be sure to ask permission before rafting-up and approach the moored boat upwind. Wind conditions and boat size and weight should be taken into consideration.