Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Boating Knots

April 10th, 2019 by

Are you a first-time boater and don’t know all the ins and outs yet?

If you are a first-time boater, then you’ll want to know your boating knots before you go cruising along the closest pond, river, or ocean with your family and friends.

Knowing your boating knots can not only ensure your safety but also the safety of your boat too.

Of course, checking out some boating courses and safety tips will go a long way as well.

However, if you want to know about all the different kinds of knots, you should know and might encounter, here is the perfect place for you!


Reef Knot

Perhaps the most common of the boating knots, the reef knot (or the square knot) is used to tie two lengths of rope together.

There is one stipulation when using this knot. The lengths of rope you are tying together need to be of the same diameter. Otherwise, this knot will not work as it should.

Since the reef knot ties two ropes together, this knot is mostly used to make a longer line if you only have two short lines.


How to tie a reef knot:

  1. Take two shorter ropes (rope A and rope B) and cross the end of rope A over rope B, like you would with your shoelaces.
  2. Cross the end of rope A over rope B again.
  3. Tighten the knot.









We suggest using more than one color when using more than one rope in a knot.

One common mistake when tying this knot is what is known as the granny knot.

The granny knot occurs when you have crossed the ends of the ropes differently both times, which is why we specifically say to cross rope A over B in the steps. While it is a boating knot, the granny knot is not as secure and can fall apart.



With enough length at the ends of the ropes, you can add extra knots for even more security.


Sheet Bend

When you do have two lines of rope that are different diameters, you can use the sheet bend knot instead of the reef knot.

This knot is also commonly used to make a longer length of rope from two shorter pieces, so you’ll want to consider color coding your ropes.

How to tie a sheet bend:

  1. Make rope A your thicker rope and rope B your thinner rope.
  2. Take the end of rope A and fold it on itself to make a little loop.
  3. Pass rope B through the tiny loop of rope A.
  4. Bring rope B behind the end of rope A and its main length, in the order.
  5. Pull rope B around and pass its end under itself.
  6. Tighten to finish the knot.



Bowline Knot

The bowline knot is a very popular boating knot. In fact, it is one of the most widely used knots when it comes to boating.

The bowline knot’s popularity comes from its versatility in what it can do and how much it can take. Bowline knots end in a loop, which can be used to dock your boat with by throwing the loop over a piling.

While easy to untie when not being used, a bowline knot isn’t going to slip off while under strain either.

So how does one tie a bowline knot?

  1. Grab a rope of your choice and lay it flat while identifying the two ends of the rope (we’ll call them end A and end B).
  2. Make a small loop in the length of the rope close to one of the ends.
  3. Grab end A and pull it through the underside of the loop you made.
  4. Bring end A under the length of end B (this is the free end of the rope) just above the loop.
  5. Pull end A through the loop one more time and tighten the knot.



Keep in mind the size of the knot itself. Making the initial loop closer to the end means the bowline knot will be smaller and vice versa.


Clove Hitch

Another boating knot you may come across is the clove hitch.

A clove hitch isn’t as sturdy as a bowline hitch and shouldn’t be used for extremely heavy loads. A problem with the clove hitch is that it doesn’t have any lasting power. Eventually, this knot will come undone, so you’ll want to be mindful of that.

However, it is a good temporary knot if you are only briefly stopping at a dock.

A common use for the clove hitch is for hanging fenders over the side of your boat as you are docking.

How to tie a clove hitch:

  1. Wrap end A around the post or whatever you are attaching the rope to.
  2. Bring end A back up, crossing over the length of the rope, and wrap it again.
  3. Loosen the second wrap and pull end A up through it.
  4. Pull tight, and that’s it!




Cleat Hitch

Other essential boating knots you’ll need to know about are cleat hitch knots.

A cleat hitch is a knot designed for one purpose, to secure a line to a cleat, hence the name cleat hitch.

This is the knot you’ll be using to moor your boat and prevent the waves from whisking it away.


How to tie a cleat hitch:

  1. Start by wrapping end A around the base of the cleat beginning at the furthest edge from where your rope is coming from.
  2. Make a figure eight around the cleat with end A at least two to three times for security.
  3. After the last figure eight, make a loop with end A and hook it around the cleat. Make sure that end A is facing away from where the rope starts.
  4. Pull tight to finish.



Constrictor Knot

Constrictor knots are something every boater should know as they can be incredibly useful as they can securely bind whatever they hold.

Consequently, you don’t want to use this knot on anything fragile you don’t want to break.

While great for binding, the constrictor knot is incredibly difficult to untie and usually needs to be cut off with a knife.

One use for these boating knots is to secure the ends of other lengths of rope so that their ends don’t unravel.


How to tie a constrictor knot:

  1. Take end A and pull it over the pole or other rope you are tying.
  2. Bring end A under the object and up towards you. Your first wrap is done.
  3. Cross end A over the length of itself and wrap it around the object a second time.
  4. While still loose, pull end A through the second and first wrap.
  5. Pull tight to finish.



Once tightened, the constrictor knot will not loosen. Any additional pulling or added strain on this knot will cause it to tighten further, which is why it is so hard to untie.

Anchor Bend

When it comes to tying a line to your boat’s anchor, there are two boating knots perfect for the job, the anchor bend and the round turn and two half hitches.

Both knots are very similar to each other, and there is some debate on which of the two is better. For the most part, whichever one you decide to use will be up to you.

The anchor bend is also known as the anchor hitch or the fisherman’s hitch.


How to tie an anchor bend:

  1. Wrap end A around the end of the anchor twice.
  2. Bring end A over the main length and behind it.
  3. Pull end A through the two wraps from step 1.
  4. Wrap end A around the main length of the rope and pull taught.



When using an anchor bend, make sure to check the rope itself regularly. Since it is used as the main line for the anchor, it will be put through heavy use, and you’ll want to check for any fraying.


Round Turn and Two Half Hitches

As mentioned before there are two boating knots good knot for securing your anchor, and the round turn and two half hitches is that second knot.


Without further ado, here is how to tie a round turn and two half hitches knot:

  1. Wrap end A around the end of the anchor twice.
  2. Bring end A over the main length of the rope and pass end A through the space between the main length and end A.
  3. Repeat step 2.
  4. Tighten rope to finish.



As you can see, the main difference between this knot and the anchor bend are the last two steps, which secure the knot in place.


Rolling Hitch

Boating knots are necessary to man your boat and boat safety. However, under too much strain the rope used to make these knots can snap.

When you have a line that is under a lot of strain, using a rolling hitch can ease that strain by transferring it to another line.


How to tie a rolling hitch:

  1. While holding end B, pull end A over the object you are tying and bring it down to the left of end B.
  2. Bring end A up and wrap it around the object making sure to go over end B.
  3. Bring end A down behind the object and to the left of end B once more.
  4. For the second wrap, wrap end A over end B and the object. Tighten to secure the first wrap.
  5. To end the knot, pull end A through the loop of the second wrap and tighten.



Additional Boating Knots

There are far more boating knots to consider than the ones we’ve listed so far.

With how creative the human mind can be, there are even variations of some of the knots we’ve mentioned as well.

For example, if you want an even more secure bowline knot, then you can use the double bowline knot.

There is also the half hitch, figure eight, and double sheet bend knots to consider as well.

Of course, when tying knots the type of rope you are using can also dictate how secure the knot is. Some ropes are better for certain knots than others are.

You’ll also want to store your ropes away properly and keep them as organized as possible by coiling them.

Coiling your ropes can prevent tangles and time wasted to untangle them.


Ready to Go Boating?

If you have your boat picked out, taken all the necessary courses, and studied your knots, then you are officially ready to go boating.

We bet you can’t wait to enjoy the sea breeze, but if you have any questions or would like to know more then don’t hesitate to contact us!