10 Popular Sailing Knots and How to Tie Them

10 Popular Sailing Knots and How to Tie Them  | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 17, 2020

Sailing

Whether you're new to the sailing scene or just a simple wind-seeker, who has been around the dock a couple of times, knowing the different types of sailing knots, learning how to properly tie them, and how to use them effectively is, without a doubt, some of the most priceless skills that every sailor should acquire.

Ropes, sailing, knots, and boating have one thing in common: they go hand in hand once you're out there on the water. When it comes to sailing, ropes and knots are everywhere. Knowing how to tie knots on boats are legendary and a source of great pride. For many centuries, sailors have heaped praises not just on their knots but also on their skills to tie them. The good thing is; knots are integral to sailing and safety. In addition to securing and anchoring the boat to docks, knots can be of great help when using lines to trim sails. Knots can also be used to tie various objects to the deck to prevent them from washing overboard. In essence, a good sailing knot will make your sailing much better and can save lives in dire situations.

Although there are unlimited types of sailing knots that anyone can use, most of them are not so popular with sailors. There are, however, ten popular sailing knots that are very useful when sailing. When it comes to sailing knots, they can fall into three different categories: when a rope is connected to a cleat, when a knot is used to join two pieces of rope, and when a knot is tied at the end of a rope. Tying sailing knots is simple, but the first step is to know various types of sailing knots.

In this article, we'll highlight ten popular sailing knots and how to use them properly.

Table of contents for this article

Bowline Knot

The Bowline knot is hailed as the most useful knot by many sailors. It's one of the most basic knots that every sailor should know how to tie and use. The Bowline knot is hugely popular for its versatility given that its fixed noose will ensure that your rope doesn't run or slip. Bowline knot has been around for over 400 years and is generally referred to as the "king of knots".

In addition to being versatile and very secure, a bowline knot can be easily undone despite how tight the knot is. It can also support a huge amount of weight and can be easily untied even after holding heavy loads. You can as well use a bowline when you require a fixed loop at the end of the line.

Here is how to tie a bowline knot.

  • Create an overhand loop in the line
  • Pass the tail end of the line through the loop
  • Wrap the line around the standing part
  • Pass through the loop in the opposite direction just like you did the first time
  • Pull the knot tightly to secure it

The Square Knot (Reef Knot)

The square knot is a classic knot that is generally used to tie two lines together. That's not all; a square knot can be used for a couple of other things such as to tie the boat to another line, to create longer lines, and to combine lines for other tasks. The square knot is typically used for furling or reefing sails. In essence, the square knot is highly reliable and can perfectly tighten without stress.

The square knot is more secure and stable and is almost akin to the normal shoelace knot. Although the square knot is great for tying two different lines, you shouldn't use it if the lines are of different sizes as one can easily slip out. The square knot has been around for over 4,000 years and is trusted beyond the maritime field as it's used in the medical field too. It's easy to tie, easy to master, super strong, and easy to release when the day is over.

Here's how to tie the square knot.

  • Take two ends of two different lines of the same size
  • Cross the right line over the left line to create an overhand knot
  • Do the same with the left line by crossing it over the right to make another overhand knot
  • Pull it to make it tight and secure

Figure-Eight Knot (Flemish Knot)

The figure-eight knot is multi-functional and can be used to interconnect two lines to work together. This is a very well-versed knot and is a common figure in the maritime field. It's the ultimate stopper knot that will only become stronger with the increase of pressure. Better still, tying it is easy and can be done in seconds. It's a knot that you can trust to hold everything in place even when lives or the vessel is at stake.

Here's how to tie a figure-eight knot.

  • Pass the free  end of the line over itself to form a loop
  • Continue under and around the line
  • Pass the working end down through the original loop

The Anchor Bend Knot

Ask any random sailor and they instantly tell you that having your anchor untied spells doom. This is where the anchor bend knot comes in handy: it is generally used to secure the line to an anchor. In addition to securing the anchor to the ship, this hitch knot can be used to secure the line to a ring or to another point of termination.

Here's how to tie an anchor bend knot.

  • Run the working end of the line through the anchor's shackle twice
  • Leave both ends of the lines open
  • Take the working end of the line behind the standing line of the rope
  • Feed it through the first turn and tighten
  • Tie the end of the rope to the standing line with a backup line. This is to make sure that the line doesn't untie

The Sheet Bend Knot

Unlike the square knot which isn't great for tying two lines of different sizes, the sheet bend knot is the perfect type of knot if you want to tie together two lines of different sizes and materials. This is a good knot, especially if the two lines are not under load or any form of strain. The best part of using the sheet bend knot is that it's appropriate to join two lines that couldn't normally join either because of differences in materials or diameters.

Here's how to tie the sheet bend knot.

  • Bend the slippery or thicker line into a J shape like a fish hook
  • Pass the other line through the J shape from behind and wrap it around the shape
  • Do not pass the working end under or over the J shape as this can make it insecure
  • Instead, tuck the thinner line through and around the J shape

The Half Hitch Knot

The half hitch knot is great for securing a line either to a pole or a post. It involves the use of two half hitches to create a reliable and secure hitch. This knot can be insecure when used alone, so it should be used together with other types of knots to create secure knots.

Here's how to tie a half hitch knot.

  • Wrap the rope around the standing end of the line to create a loop and the first hitch
  • Wrap the rope the same way again to make the second hitch
  • Pull it tight
  • For added security, you can tie an overhand knot with the end of the line to prevent the half hitches from slipping

The Clove Hitch Knot

The clove hitch knot is the fastest way to attach a fender to a lifeline. This is because it allows you to raise or lower the fender without fully untying it. You can use this knot to secure your boat to a dock that has rails instead of cleats.

Here's how to tie a clove hitch knot.

  • Run the working end of the line around the post
  • Cross the line over itself and run it around the post for the second time
  • Slacken the last loop a little, slide the end under, and pull it tightly to secure the knot

Cleat Hitch Knot

The cleat hitch knot is a cousin to the clove hitch knot given that they're almost the same. While the clove hitch knot is used when tying a boat to a dock with rails, the cleat hitch knot is typically used to tie boats to docks with cleats.

Here's how to tie a cleat hitch knot.

  • Take a full turn around the cleat with the rope
  • Create a figure-eight around the first cleat and then the next one
  • Do the same to each cleat while passing the rope underneath the figure-eight shape and pulling tightly

The Rolling Hitch Knot (Magnus Hitch)

The rolling hitch knot is great for fastening a rope to a pole, a rod, or to another rope. This is a perfect knot if you want to pull any given object lengthwise without angles. You can use this knot to loosen a tensioned sheet or sail line to allow you to safely clear a jammed winch. You can also use it to rig a stopper.

Here's how to tie this sailing knot.

  • Coil the rope around the other rope or the object
  • Bring it in the direction of pull and between the standing part of the line and the object
  • Create a similar coil but in the opposite direction
  • Finish with a half hitch around the other rope or the object in the same direction of the coils and pull tightly to secure

Stopper Knot

When sailing, all lines on your sailboat must have a stopper knot, particularly the halyards. Remember, having a loose halyard will mean that your mainsail drops fast and this isn't good for your sailing. Without a proper stopper knot, you can lose your sail and the weight of the line can even pull the halyard out of the cleat or out of the position.

Here's how to tie a stopper knot.

  • Make a tiny loop at the end of the working line. You can do this by passing the tag end over the standing line
  • Tie an overhand knot around the standing line
  • Run the tag end through the loop end
  • Pull the tag end through and slide the knot down until it becomes tight
  • Pull both ends tightly to secure the knot

Bottom Line

Ropes and lines will always be part of sailing and invaluable parts of your sailboat. Whether you want to reef the sails, moor the boat, or hold objects in place, you'll have to use the lines at one point when sailing. But to use these lines perfectly, you have to know how to tie different knots not just to make the lines secure but also to ensure that they're working effectively.

The above-described knots are popular, easy to learn, and tie. All you have to do is practice how to tie them and they'll serve you diligently and make your sailing even more fun and safe.

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