As people who spend time on boats we are in the business of tying lots of knots. Knots to secure boats to buoys and pontoons, knots to pull sails up and also knots to ensure we can adjust sails when they are up. Their uses are endless!

There is no wizardry in being able to tie knots and in reality there are eight key ones that you can put to good use on any boat….

Whether you are sailing for a long weekend or embarking on an RYA training voyage it is always worth sitting down and practicing these 8 knots. There is always time when you are on board to learn but if you have some free time and old bit of rope then why not put it to good use and become a practiced knotter… 

1. Figure of Eight, 2. Reef Knot, 3. Bowline, 4. Clove hitch 5. Rolling Hitch, 6. Round turn and two half hitches, 7. sheet bend, 8. Double Sheet bend. 

1. Figure of Eight

Otherwise known as a stopper knot which stops knots dissappearing off through blocks. It is a great knot to start with as it does exactly what it says on the tin and creates a knot that looks like a figure of eight.

Create a loop with the short tail running over the top. Lead the tail underneath the long part of the rope and the poke the rope back through the loop. Tighten it up!

2. Reef Knot

Used to tie two piece of rope together, which are the same diameter and are under constant pressure. We use it to tie up the sail covers, and when we reef (reduce sail due to higher winds) and there is a bag of sail that needs securing. There are many way to remember how to tie it but here is mine:

Hold each end in seperate hands. Left (hand) rope goes over the right (hand) and then underneath. Then the rope now in your right hand goes over the rope in your left hand and underneath and pull tight.

You know you have it right if the tails (ends) are on the same side and do not stick out at right angles, this is fondly known as a granny knot. It should sit nice and flat and you should have a diamond shape in the middle of the knot.

3. Bowline

Now this is widely used and takes a little bit more practice, but is well worth learning. It creates a standing loop that doesnt slip. As ever, practice makes perfect and once you have it try and tie it in different orientations; back to front, upside down and behind your back.

You create a small loop with the long tail sitting on the bottom of it. The long tails is the standing end and is more than likely tied onto the boat in some way. 

Pinch the loop with your two fingers in one hand and with the other take the short tail, which you will use to create the knot with. Come from underneath through the loop you are pinching, then take it under neath the long tail. Then go back through the loop you are holding in the oppposite direction to the way you have just come. Pull the tail’s away from each other to tighten.

Remember -Do not pull the short tail through too much as you need to create a standing loop, within the knot. It might be easier to tie it around something…sail, piece of wood, your waist to help to realise its role.

4. Clove Hitch

A simple locking hitch, one role is for attaching fenders to the boat. The disadvantage of this knot is that as soon as it comes under load it locks and is then hard to alter.

There is long tail which leads away to something, like a fender and is what you will be locking into position with this knot. To start the knot do one full turn around the pole (in this instance) and as you start your second turn you cross over the long tail, locking it down and complete the second turn around the pole. You then poke the short end up through the gap between the pole and second turn so that it lies next to the long tail. Tighten up the knot and it should hold in place.

5. Rolling Hitch

A development from the clove hitch is the rolling hitch. It’s ability to lock and control a rope means you can use it take control of a rope thats under load while you change where it runs.

Start in the same way as the clove hitch but do at least two full turns around the rope/pole that you are tying too in the direction you don’t want it to slide. Then cross over all the turn to lock them in and then finish in the same way as before. 

Once tight grab the long tail! if you pull in the direction that the two full turns are it should bight. If you pull it the other direction its likely to slip.


6. Round turn and two half hitches

A great knot to use if you need to undo it under load. Tying up fenders, lee cloths….as ever a long list of things it can be used for. 

Create a full turn around what you are tying onto, in this instance the pole. It looks like you have gone round one and a half times. Take the short tail over the long standing tail, take it through the hole between the two bits of rope and tighten it up. Repeat in exactly the same way without changing the direction of movement. Keep it simple. 

7. Single Sheet Bend and 8. Double Sheet Bend

A great knot for connecting two pieces of rope with very different diameters. Unlike the reef knot it doesnt need to be under constant load. A great way to get heavy mooring lines to the shore using a smaller heaving line. Depending on the size of the ropes a double sheet bend is preferred to stop the knot capsizing. 

With the larger of the ropes create a loop of rope (bight) and clasp it with one hand. With the smaller rope, come up through the loop and go around the back of the loop before putting the short tail through between the smaller and large rope to lock into place. To do a double sheet bend continue around in the same direction, laying it underneath the other turn and then poke the tail through the same gap.