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The Sailor's Guide to Knot-Tying

Written By: Peter Whiting

Before heading out onto the water with your sailboat, it's important to know some basic boat knots to ensure a safer ride across the waves. Learning how to tie a boat knot is a step that will make your sailing experience a far better, and more fun, one. To get you there, the team at Seattle Yachts International has created an illustrated step-by-step guide for 16 of the best sailing knots to get familiar with. Check out our nautical knot-tying guide below to be better prepared when you hit the open seas.

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The Sailor's Guide to Knot-Tying - Seattle Yachts Sailboats - Infographic

By SeattleYachts.com

What Is the Most Important Boat Knot to Learn?

While all of these different types of knots are important, one of the best sailboat knots to learn how to tie is the cleat hitch knot. This knot is used to secure your sailboat to the dock, a common and necessary task when boating. When you're tying your boat up with a cleat knot, it's important to follow the sequence of steps or the knot could jam.

Below is a list of the 16 boat knots that we think every sailor should know, especially if you're just learning to sail sailboats or yachts.

Boat Knots That Connect the Line to a Support

  • Half Hitch is the easiest knot to learn and the basis for many nautical knots, although it's not reliable on its own.
  • Double Half Hitch is a more secure version of the half hitch and is a good option for keeping yachts or sailboats secure in their slips.
  • Clove Hitch is a versatile marine knot that can be used for mooring, securing fenders, or to tie a boat to a dock.
  • Cleat Hitch is commonly used to secure a line to the dock.
  • Round Turn and Two Half Hitches is a strong knot that is used to secure a line to a fixed object.
  • Anchor Hitch is mainly used to connect a line to an anchor.

Boat Knots That Join Two Lines Together

  • Sheet Bend is often used to unite two lines of different sizes or materials, but it will also work on lines of the same diameter.
  • Double Sheet Bend is a more secure version and is used when two lines have a large difference in diameter or rigidity.
  • Reef Knot is used to secure two lines together and to bundle objects together, making it a great option for furling sailboat sails.
  • Rolling Hitch is used to pull objects lengthwise, to clear a jammed block or winch, or to secure a snubber to an anchor.

Boat Knots That Create a Looped End

  • Bowline Knot creates a fixed loop at the end of a line that can be used to secure to a cleat or piling. It can even be used to tie around someone's waist when rescuing them from the water.
  • Midshipman's Hitch is used to create an adjustable loop that can slide up and down the standing line to change the loop size, length, and tightness.

Other Sailboat Knots

  • Figure-Eight Knot is a stopper knot that is used to keep the end of the line from slipping out of its retaining device. This self-tightening knot grows stronger as the line tension increases.
  • Handcuff Knot is used to secure oars together and lash them to the rails of the boat.
  • Monkey's Fist is used to add weight to the end of a line; it's perfect for tossing a line to an approaching vessel, dock, or other end of the boat. It is also often used as a decorative nautical knot for things like key chains.
  • Trucker's Hitch is mainly used to tie down loads, as the pulley effect in the middle of the knot allows the line to be pulled very tight to secure the load.

Have you ever sailed a sailboat, yacht, or other seafaring vessel and found yourself in need of one of these sailing knots?

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