There’s Knots to Know: 8 Basic Knots All Boaters Should Master

By: Scott Way

Photo: Ksenia Makagonova / Unsplash

If you're a boater knowing how to tie a few knots isn’t just handy, it’s a valuable life skill. If you spend any time boating, camping, sailing, or spending time outdoors it’s inevitable that tying a few ropes will be necessary at some point. Knowing how to sling together a trucker’s hitch or a cleat hitch is a valuable piece of knowledge, and you’d be surprised how often it comes in handy.


Knowing a handful of knots is helpful so you can choose one that’s ideal for a particular situation. Rather than falling back on the old adage “if you can’t tie a knot tie a lot,” you can choose the optimal knot for a bowline, anchor line, rigging, or anything in between. Some knots are meant to slip and some are meant to grip, so knowing what you need is paramount. Some are permanent and some are temporary, and knowing which to choose will save you from having to cut away a pile of tangled rope. If you’re a recreational boater you’ve no doubt come across a few situations where a particular knot was ideal, but even if you’re not a seasoned boater here are 8 basic knots that every boater or outdoor enthusiast can put to use.


1. Trucker’s Hitch


One of the most versatile knots there is, not just for boating but in many outdoor activities. Don’t let the video intimidate you, it’s quick and easy. It’s a great knot for securing equipment into position and it utilizes a quick release to make unloading/changing out items efficient and simple.



2. Sheepshank


A classic boating knot used to shorten a length of rope or take up slack. It’s not a stable knot and will come undone under too much, or too little, load but it’s a very handy for organizing and setting several lines you’re working with.



3. Anchor Hitch


Also called an anchor bend knot. If you don’t use a chain and need to keep your anchor tethered to the anchor rode, this is the ideal choice. Once you’ve mastered it, it’s a quick go-to choice.



4. Clove Hitch


A quick temporary knot for tying moving objects to fixed ones or to secure fenders. Be careful, this knot can come undone if both objects aren’t stable. A quick solution knot.



5. Cleat Hitch


Also referred to as a halyard. If you’re working with a cleat, use a cleat hitch. It’s a quick knot for securing your vessel, and it comes undone with ease. Easy on, easy off.



6. Figure Eight


Sometimes referred to as a stopper knot, it has a loop that won’t slip out. It also forms a secure, non-slip loop at the end of a rope. It’s a common knot used by mountain climbers, but comes in handy for securing to a mooring.



7. Bowline


A reliable choice that creates a fixed loop at the end of a line. It’s a knot that won’t jam and can be untied even under extreme tension. As long as it’s under constant load the bowline won’t slip, but under an intermittent load it can fail if the tail end is short.



8. Square Knot


Also called a reef knot, it’s an ancient knot from old school mariners. It’s a simple concept for securing a rope or line around an object. It’s a quick tether knot but don’t rely on it for anything extensive. It can also be used to join two ropes together.



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