A Recipe for a good Raft Up

We love a good raft up! Kids clambering from boat to boat, adults congregating on one boat or another for pre-dinner drinks, and after dinner parties. For us a raft up reminds us of good times with great friends. On our recent holiday our record was eight boats one night all rafted up together, and after two weeks of rafting up in different anchorages, we all became experts at the best way to do it.

Raft up!

To make your own raft up follow this recipe…


  • A nice sheltered bay – preferably with no waves, but if this can’t be done – some waves are ok if you can take them head on.
  • One or more friends with similar sized boats
  • Some nice big fat fenders – at least 4
  • Two nice long stretchy spring ropes
  • Bow and stern lines
  • A decent anchor per boat or a strong mooring
  • A long stretchy, floating, brightly coloured stern line – at least 100 metres long. (optional)


  • Select the bay of your choice and tell all your friends to come along! Check the forecast and make sure it is going to be protected from the wind, check the tide and make sure that there is enough water to cater for the drafts of the boats you have invited.
  • Once you have got your spot selected, get the biggest boat to either pick up the mooring or lay their anchor first and make sure it is set really well.
  • If you are rafting up on an anchor, you either have to be pretty confident that the big boat’s anchor is going to hold all of you, or alternatively in the Marlborough Sounds, you can get really close in to shore and put stern lines out to stop the raft up swinging around and tangling up the anchors – Warning this is very bad! If you are on a mooring, you can ignore the next two steps.
  • The smaller boats also lay their anchors a reasonable way away from the first anchor, and take a stern lines ashore. (If you give yourselves plenty of space in this step, then you have the option to untie and move away from the centre boat if things get rolly later on. The centre boat can put a stern line out too. It is entirely up to you.


  • The next step is to ‘knit’ the boats together. Put your nice big fenders out, and attach a long bow and stern line to your boat, and jump in the dinghy and row or throw the line over to the middle boat. Etiquette is for the new boats tying up to the existing boat to provide the appropriate lines. Ease out the anchor or stern line to so that the boats come together so it looks like the boats are in the middle of a nice spider web!
  • Make sure that your masts aren’t all lined up. If it does get rolly then the last thing you want is to get your spreaders tangled up with the boat beside you. So move the boats forward and backwards to ensure that there is a decent gap between masts to allow for any rolling.
  • The final step is to put on the springs! Get some nice stretchy line – this helps absorb any shock. (Old halyards do not make good spring lines…) Attach one to a cleat or winch at the back of your boat and lead it through the lifelines diagonally forward to either a cleat or tie it around the base of the shrouds on the other boat. Tie another one from the base of your shrouds or a strong cleat and lead it diagonally back to a cleat or winch on the next door boat. Make sure your springs are really tight and then you can ease off your bow & stern lines to hang a bit looser. Also try to keep them low on the deck so people don’t trip over them when they are moving from boat to boat.

In the photograph below I have put arrows showing the stern lines, the loose stern line and the tight springs holding the boats nicely together. Nice big fat fenders make things much more comfortable too.

Rafting up

  • Repeat the steps above to add as many boats as you like. If anyone is getting up to leave early the next day, then make sure that they are on the outside as it is a bit of a hassle to untangle everyone again the next day. If you are in the middle it isn’t impossible to escape, if the others have laid their anchors far enough away they can just unhook and then re-knit together once you have gone.
  • Finally, once you are all securely tied up you can crack open a beer and invite the boat next door over to join you. Check your lines again before you go to bed to make sure that everyone is still sitting nicely together.


  • Buy a long – at least 100m brightly coloured stern line, and make sure it is stretchy and floating – polyester is great  – we have got a yellow one. Being brightly coloured means you can easily see it at night when you shine the torch on it, and people in dinghies or on paddleboards also will see it before they accidentally get their head sliced off if they are zooming past. Floating means it is less likely to get wrapped around the propeller and again it is visible for anyone going past, and being stretchy means it has a bit of ‘give’ which absorbs shock and it won’t jerk the boat when it goes taut. Make sure whatever you tie it to ashore isn’t going to chafe it, or put out some chafing protection.
  • Avoid anchorages with lots of zooming power boats with big wakes. It gets tiresome and dangerous fending the boats off one another when there are idiots around who don’t understand the consequences of their big wakes
  • Remind the kids and non-sailor adults to not get their toes or fingers anywhere between the two boats in case they get squashed together. The big fat fenders should help avoid this issue.
  • When crossing over one boat to get to another etiquette is to walk over in front of their mast – avoid climbing through their cockpit, or ask them where they would prefer you to walk/cross. (Make sure your shoes are clean!)
  • If you loop your bow & stern lines around a cleat on the other boat and bring the ends back to your boat, then it makes it easier for you to leave without disturbing the other boat, or for them to leave, they can just lift your line over the cleat and leave (just make sure they weren’t the one holding the mooring!)

6 thoughts on “A Recipe for a good Raft Up

  1. Viki – this is an awesome article! I love raft-ups! We’ve only rafted onto one other boat because we didn’t know how to do more than that but I’ve bookmarked this article for the next time we have several friends/boats around. Over the summer we rafted up with friends that had children. The kids had a great time going back and forth and even played a game of ‘hide-n-seek’. It was so nice not having to cart the kids back and forth using the dingy…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great! Thanks Kim! The more the merrier! If you follow the recipe then you won’t have any problems. Our gatherings moved from boat to boat. Some kids fishing on one boat, others playing cards on another, adults all somewhere in the middle. It is great as someone has got an eye on what the kids are getting up to, however ours are at an age now where we don’t have to worry so much about them falling over the side when we aren’t looking. I do worry about someone getting their foot or hand squashed between the boats if it gets rolly, but that’s where the big fenders come in really handy! 🙂


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