In underwater acoustic communications (UAC), frequency-dependent signal attenuation, long propagation delay and doubly-selective fading channels render reliable communications a challenging problem, especially at long distances. To enhance reliability and to extend range, relay communications have been extensively studied in terrestrial environments. However, their application to UAC has not been thoroughly explored. In this paper, we analyze the capacity of relay-aided (RA-)UAC. The result shows a prominent capacity increase in RA-UAC systems, when compared with traditional direct-link UAC. In addition, effects of various system parameters on capacity are also evaluated. These parameters include source-to-destination distance, transmit power allocation and relay location. To realize the benefits of RA-UAC, special considerations are to be taken in practical RA-UAC system designs. To account for and to take advantage of the unique characteristics of UAC channels, we develop a practical asynchronous amplify-and-forward (AF) relay system for UAC. To collect the ample multipath energy and diversity enabled by this relaying protocol, we also employ the precoded orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) as the basic physical layer module. Our system resolves both the time synchronization difficulty and frequency selectivity of UAC. Simulations and comparisons are presented to verify our analysis and design.