Knots and Line Handling

 Here's some basic boaters knots, how to tie them, and a few line handling tips. It's just as important to learn WHEN to use a particular knot as HOW to tie it!

Learn Basic Knots for Boaters Part 1



"The King of Knots" because it' makes a strong loop that can still be untied even if it has been under a lot of load. Used for things like tying sheets to jib sail.

Learn to tie Bowline

Figure 8 Stopper


Sailors often need a knot that prevents a line from accidentally being pulled through a fitting. This is a common "stopper" knot, because it's easy to tie, and untie.

Learn to tie Figure 8

Cleat Hitch


This is how you tie a line to a cleat properly, such as tying a boat to a dock. (The spiral of line beside cleat in this picture is called a "Flemish", used to keep extra line tidy)

Learn to tie cleat hitch

Round Turn & 2 1/2 Hitches


Very useful knot for boaters, and easy to learn. Used for tying a line to something, like a dinghy to a dock, or a fender to a rail... when you don't want it to work itself free.

Learn to tie Round Turn & 2 1/2 Hitches

Clove Hitch


Useful for quickly, and temporarily tying a line to something, especially if you think you may want to shorten or lengthen it quickly, without untying. Useful to tie on fenders temporarily.

learn to tie clove hitch

Rolling Hitch


When you want to tie a line to a pole, or another line, and want to be able to pull parallel to it with out the knot slipping along it, such as to keep fender from sliding along rail.

learn to tie rolling hitch

Basic Knots for Boaters Part 2

Sheet Bend


When you want to tie lines of 2 different sizes together. When you want it to be more secure... tie the Double Sheet Bend

Learn to tie sheet Bend

Reef Knot


Sailors call it a reef knot, because the main use is as a binding knot in reefing sails. Common name is Square Knot. More reliable binding Surgeons Knot uses extra turn in 1st 1/2 knot.

Learn the reef knot

Running Bowline


A loop that will tighten around an object as pressure is applied to line. Commonly used to attach reefing line to mainsail.

Learn to tie running bowline

Coiling and Crowning Line


AKA "gasket coil". Coil and secure a line neatly. If one end is secured (eg halyard or sheet) avoid introducing twist; use 'figure 8' version.

Learn to coil and crown

Daisy Chain


An alternative to a "Flemish" for keeping extra line, such as extra dock line tidy. When the end is pulled, all the loops instantly disappear. 

Also called a Chain Sinnet, Chain Stitch, or Monkey Braid, etc.

Learn the Daisy Chain

Trucker's Hitch

For tying down and compressing a load, such as snugging an inflated dinghy onto deck. There are several versions of this knot.

Learn Trucker's Hitch

Experienced Boaters Know....

Just because most people know how to tie the square knot... it's the basis of how most people tie shoelaces...doesn't make it a good knot. Only use it as a binding knot (tied against a suitable material like a reefed sail), never as a bend (to tie the ends of 2 lines together). It slips, capsizes, comes undone.

Never use it where safety is critical.

 "There have probably been more lives lost as a result of using a Square Knot (aka Reef Knot) as a bend (to tie two ropes together) than from the failure of any other half dozen knots combined." 

Clifford W. Ashley, in The Ashley Book of Knots 

Single-Handing Bull Rail Docking

Notice how I had my lines set up on the boat ahead of time, so I could reach them from the dock, and how tied to a "bull rail" which is common here in the Pacific Northwest.

Using Round Turn and 2 Half Hitches to Tie to Bull Rail

There are many ways to tie a boat to a bull rail. This is a basic one: a round turn and 2 half hitches. Bull rails are horizontal spars, 4x4's, metal pipes, or similar that boats are tied to at the dock. They're common here in the Pacific Northwest. (yeah, next time I'll wear sunglasses David!)

Why you Want to Know How to Heave a Line

It's not hard to learn to heave a line effectively. But get a bit of training and practice ahead of time, so you don't end up like this poor guy!

Grog's Animated Knots

Widely recognized as the best, free website for learning to tie knots. Also available as app for phone or tablet. 


Trucker's Hitch

Just for fun.... no, it's not really how to tie a Trucker's Hitch