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Sailing Knots

The 5 Sailing Knots Sailors Need to Know

Knowing how to tie proper knots is not only a point of pride for most sailors but also a key safety measure. The good news is that you don’t need to memorize hundreds of knot types to earn your seafaring stripes because we’re looping you in on the five most important ones —cleat hitch, figure 8, bowline, square, and line coil. We’ve even made some instructional videos to give you an up-close look at how to master these versatile knots hands-on. You don’t even need a boat! All you need to practice tying these basic knots is a line (rope or cord works too!) and some free time! 

Let’s get knotty: For more line-tying tutorials, check out our social media pages for our “Knot of the Week.”

The Cleat Hitch

To many sailors, this is the first knot needed to begin your education in docking. This simple yet vital knot is the only way to ensure your yacht does not drift off while you are getting a rum drink from the bar or spending the night in a beautiful island marina. 

Step 1 – Wrap the line completely around the base of the cleat.

Step 2 – Wrap the line around 1 horn (arm) of the cleat.

Step 3 – Pull the line over the near horn and wrap it under again.

Step 4 – Wrap the line under and then over the first horn to create a figure 8 pattern.

Step 5 – To lock the knot, form an underhand loop and slip it over the near horn. Pull tightly to secure.

The Figure 8 Knot


While sailing, all lines on the yacht need to have a stopper knot at the end to ensure they do not run through the rigging or are “skied”. For example, if there is no stopper knot at the end of your main halyard, as the sail comes down, the line can be pulled through the mast—causing a major “re-run” headache. This is also a safety measure because if you were to tack without a stopper knot in your jib sheet, it would run out of the blocks, causing a crew member to have to re-run the line quickly. Remember—secure a figure 8 for lines that cooperate.

Step 1 – Make an overhand loop at the end of your line by crossing the tail end over the sheet.

Step 2 – Then proceed to take the tail over the line again and through the loop, creating a figure 8.

Step 3 – Pull the knot tight to ensure it will not slip.

The Bowline


Perhaps the most useful and most versatile of all the knots is the Bowline. This knot is easy to tie, can support a tremendous amount of weight, and even after holding a heavy load, is easily undone. The Bowline is used when a fixed loop Is required at the end of a line.

Step 1 – Create an overhand loop in the line.

Step 2 – Take the sail end of the line through the loop.

Step 3 – Wrap the line around the standing portion.

Step 4 – Go through the loop in the opposite direction the same way you did the first time.

Step 5 – Pull the knot tight to secure.

The Square Knot

The square or “reef knot”, is most useful when you need to connect two lines or a line to itself. It is one of the first knots taught to young sailors and beginners due to its incredibly useful nature.

Step 1 – Take two ends of either the same line or two different lines.

Step 2 – Cross the right line over the left and make an overhand knot.

Step 3 – Cross the left over the right and make another overhand knot.

Step 4 – Pull tightly to secure.

The Line Coil


Properly coiled lines not only keep your yacht looking neat and tidy, but they also ensure a safe maneuverable deck and prevent tangled piles of pesky knots. A well-maintained boat with flawless line coils also has the added benefit of showing other sailors you are a seasoned helmsman(or woman!) with skilled deck hands. 

Step 1 – Start with the end of a line in one hand.

Step 2 – Twist the line away from you as you hand it to the hand collecting the line.

Step 3 – After all of the line has been coiled, wrap the end around the coil.

Step 4 – To make a hanging coil, pass the tail through the loop created by wrapping the line. 

Author Name: 
Kaitlyn Nakagoshi


Ian Pedersen

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