Everyone has to start learning the ropes of boating sometime and first-timers on Smith Mountain Lake are no exception. Nate Davis at www.LKNfun.com has written a great article for The Lake Channel and those who want to learn the basic rules and how-to of tying or rafting up with the other boats at the dock. It might seem like a topic everyone would know about who owns a boat, but every year young and old alike begin their first love affair with lakes and boats and need the basic rules explained. And who knows us old dogs might learn a thing or two as well.
Whether it’s your first tie-up, or you are a seasoned veteran, here are the general rules that everyone should know and follow to raft up with other boaters.
Number one – Chill Out. So many people come hot-rodding up for the first time and attempt to tie up next to a boat that just pulled in. Give the boat that you are trying to a chance to get their lines and bumpers set before approaching. Next, take a look around; was someone waiting to tie up before you? Many times people like to tie up next to people that they know. You’ll find the same boats tied next to each other week after week. Wait your turn, and if someone has friends waiting in line, go ahead and let them tie up first. I promise if you annoy someone right off the bat, you might as well go home because it will ruin the day for everyone. The majority of the tie-up crowd is laid back. They are all there for the same purpose – to kick back, relax, and hang with friends. The line isn’t going anywhere – CHILL.
Number 2 – Know how to drive a boat. If you just rented a pontoon from the marina, and you’ve never driven a boat, you probably shouldn’t tie up. Have all the fun you want by bouncing your rental boat around the slips at the restaurants, but coming to the tie-up is not a good idea. Rental companies very rarely supply the correct equipment to join the fun anyway. This leads me to my next point.
Number 3 – Rafting Gear. Buying a boat is only half the battle. To join the fun, you need to come equipped with the necessary equipment. The equipment varies depending on the size of your boat, but a good rule of thumb is that you need 4 fenders and 4 good dock lines. To qualify as a good bumper it must have a diameter of at least 5.5″. Again, depending on your style of boat, you may need suction cups or clips if you don’t have a cleat at the widest section of your boat. For line (rope) you’ll need at least four 1/2″ braided nylon dock lines. We suggest a minimum length of 15 feet. You’ll need that extra length of line if the boat between you and the rest of the raft-up decides to pull out early!
Number 4 – Anchoring. Anchoring is frequently thought of as optional – it is NOT. If you come with a KNOWN group of friends that arrive and leave together, you can have a designated anchor man/woman to tie up with, but if you are coming by yourself for the first time you’d be wise to bring an anchor. Anchoring requires a little math – sorry we can’t avoid that. We typically anchor in 25′ to 45′ water. The rule of thumb is that you need 5 to 7 times the depth of water in length. That means you need 125′ to 315′ of anchor line. NOBODY follows this rule, and that is why we could never stay anchored at the sandbar and had to move to the cocktail cove (This is a whole other subject). I don’t know anyone in a runabout that carries 315′ of anchor line – do you? So what we suggest is that you carry a minimum of 100′ of anchor line and drop anchor before backing into the raft-up. Again… if you can’t drive a boat this could be an issue. Tying up and simply dropping the anchor over the side of your boat does absolutely nothing and you may as well not even have brought your anchor. 100′ of anchor line may not hold, but it is certainly better than nothing. This is not a pitch, and I don’t make money for this, but the BEST anchor for runabouts, lakes, and rafting is the Box Anchor. This thing requires no chain and sets with half the anchor line. It will hold with 100′ of line in 45′ of water no doubt. Check out www.slideanchor.com for more information. I’ve seen this thing work… it’s awesome.
Number 5 – Play your music at a level that you can listen to while ON your boat. If you have to leave your boat to tolerate the level, or if people 5 boats away ask you to turn your tunes down, then they are probably too loud. Everyone loves music, and everyone enjoys different varieties of music. Just like the performance boaters and the sailors both enjoy the lake, only in different ways. Every individual has a right to enjoy the lake the way they want. The same goes for music. One style of music is not necessarily better than the other. Some like to chill to Bob Marley or Jimmy Buffet, while others may like to groove to Dave Mathews, some like the beat of Rap, and others enjoy the pace of Techno. No one style is better than the other and everyone should have the right to enjoy their day in the raft-up chilling to the tunes of their choice. Just be respectful of everyone and have FUN!
Number 6 – Trash. NO trash in the water! This includes cigarette butts! If you smoke, please keep an ashtray on your boat or use an empty can or bottle for ashes and butts. We don’t care what you do with your trash or your butts, but don’t throw them in the water – you will be severely reprimanded.
Number 7 – Shoes. No shoes when walking from boat to boat. Yes, this includes women. I have seen women try to hop across boats with heels on – this is not a good idea. Safety is issue number one, but vinyl and heels don’t mix either. Regular shoes leave marks too and should be avoided when walking the line. Also, be friendly – introduce yourself! Be courteous as you cross someone’s boat – it’s like you just got into their car or walked through their house.
Number 8 – Leaving. It is common courtesy to notify the boats on either side of you before you leave. If the owners of the boats are not there, make a serious effort to find them. You should expect to give 15 minutes of notification before leaving. Nothing annoys people more than untying your boat, driving off, and letting the rest of the raft float away.
If you follow these basic rules, you should have a great day rafting, meet new people, create memories, AND feel much more comfortable the next time you come to join the FUN!
Thanks to Nate Davis and the folks at the Lake Channel for this informative article.