top of page

Untangled: Boating Knots for Beginners

Sailing can be a lot of fun but also takes a fair amount of skill. One of the things you need to know is knots. There are a lot of sailing knots, but you can start with the basic ones you need to know before you leave the dock.

At Top Tier Sailing School, we can teach you how to sail, including all the boating knots you need. But you will need to keep practicing and learning more as you continue to improve. Knots are something you never stop learning!

Types of Boating Knots

The knots we're going to cover here are the most basic ones you will use every day on the water. Knots are used to secure a line to an object, function as a stopper to keep a line from slipping, or add weight to the line to make it easier to toss accurately.


This is the knot you will use the most. It's used to connect two lines but more often to form a fixed loop on the end of a line. It doesn't slip and is easy to untie even when tight. It's also a pretty easy knot.

All you need to do is make a small loop a couple of feet from the end, then pass the end through the loop. Wrap the end around the main line above the loop, turn it back down, and thread it through the loop again. Tug on the end and the main line once the loop is where you want it.

Figure Eight

A figure eight knot is used as a quick way to stop a line from running through a chock or a pully. It can be hard to untie if it is under a lot of pressure. Thread the line through the chock, then make a loop, wrap the tag end over the main line, and pass it back through the loop. Push it into position and then pull both ends.

Clove Hitch

A clove hitch doesn't hold as well as a bowline but is very quick to tie and untie. It's typically used for securing fenders, stowing lines, etc. All you have to do is wrap the line around the rail or pole, then wrap it a second time with the line crossing over the top. Pass the tag end back underneath the loop, then tug tight. You can also throw the first loop over the end of a pole and then do the second wrap.

Never use a clove hitch to secure your boat to the dock. If it rotates or loses pressure, it can come undone, and your boat will wander off.

Square Knot

Square knots are known for securely joining two ropes of similar thickness. They are often used in situations where a strong, stable connection is needed. They consist of two overhand knots tied in opposite directions, resulting in a symmetrical, square-shaped knot. 

Round Turn and Two Half-Hitches

The Round Turn and Two-Half Hitch knot is a type of knot used to secure a line to a post or other object. It involves making a loop around the post, passing the working end of the rope through the loop twice, and finishing off with two half-hitch knots to secure the line in place. This knot is known for its reliability and ability to withstand tension, making it a popular choice for securing boats, tarps, or other items.

Cleat Hitch

A cleat hitch knot is a type of knot that is used to secure a rope to a cleat on a boat or dock. To tie a cleat hitch knot, the rope is wrapped around the base of the cleat in a figure-eight pattern and then crossed over itself to create a loop. The free end of the rope is then brought underneath the standing part of the rope and looped back over the top of the cleat, securing the line in place. This knot is easily adjustable and allows for quick release when needed.

Importance of Knot-Tying Skills

All boaters need to know how to tie sailing knots. It's not something you can skip, especially as a beginner. A poorly tied knot can have significant consequences! Knots are used to secure your boat to the rail, tow a boat or tender, secure things to your boat, and hold your anchor. You can practice with any piece of rope you have handy, but ideally, with the same synthetic rope used on sailboats. The basic knots should be second nature, and once you have them down, you can start working on others!

Using the right knot and tying it correctly is important for safety. For example, we already mentioned not using a clove hitch to secure your boat to the dock—or anything else important—as it can fail, and you might be watching something go "into the drink."

Master Essential Boating Knots With Top Tier Sailing  School

We teach knot tying and all the other basics of keelboat sailing during our Basic Keelboat Sailing Course. This two-day beginner's course gives you a good start and ASA 101 certification. Contact us to learn more or to book your course today!

Featured Image: IvanRiver/Shutterstock

4 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page