One of the most common first-time-skiff-owner mistakes is going down to the local West Marine and picking up the cheapest dock lines on the rack. The problem? Usually these are three-strand twist nylon lines that are very stretchy and take forever to dry out. Unbraided nylon is fine for spring lines and even as cheap anchor line, but once you’ve owned a nice set of doubled-braided nylon or polyester lines, you’ll wonder why you ever allowed the cheap stuff on your boat. In fact, whenever I’ve sold a skiff I’ve kept the dock lines–usually a nice set of braided polyester lines that feel nicer in the hand than braided nylon. The polyester lines also absorb less water than the nylon. Polypropylene lines (think water-skiing rope) absorb the least amount of water and they float, but they are the weakest of all lines.
What should you buy for dock lines? I’d suggest at least two 15-foot, 5/8″ lines with pre-spliced 12-inch eyes (loops in the end). In a jam you can loop the two 15-footers together and make a tow line or longer tie-off line. But in most cases having lines that are longer than 15 feet just makes them harder to manage.
Another tip, you can also use double-braided lines as tie-off lines for a pushpole. Try it sometime: attach the eye to the poling platform and when you want to stake out, just wrap the braided line around the pushpole three or four times. Works like a charm, and it’s very easy to release or change the length of the tie-off.