Rope is an essential boating tool, yet it won’t be of much use unless you know a couple of basic knots. Here are five knots every boater should know.

1. Cleat Hitch


You use the appropriately-named cleat hitch to tie the boat to the dock. That makes it a pretty important knot to know, if for no other reason than to prevent your pride and joy from drifting away without you.

In a nutshell you wrap the line once around the cleat, then over the top twice, making figure-eight patterns. On the last wrap, rotate the line into a loop and flip it upside down before wrapping it around the cleat.

Pull it snug and you’re all set.

2. Clove Hitch

2 Clove Hitch

Indispensable for tying boats to posts, bollards and other fixed objects, the clove hitch is also quite easy to tie.

Take the end of your rope and make a loop, laying the line over itself. Then make a second loop, again laying the line over itself. Overlap the loops one over the other, slip it over the post you want to tie-off to, and pull snug. That’s it!

3. Bowline

3 Bowline

A bowline knot creates a loop in the end of a rope, which won’t slip. Start by making a small loop in your rope about 18 inches from the end. Run the tag end of the line through the loop, wrap it around the main line, then pass it back through the loop again and pull tight. Voila!

4. Sheet Bend

4 Sheet bend

A sheet bend is used to tie two lines together, and works even if the lines are of different diameters.

Start by making a U-shaped loop in the first line, then run the second one through it. Continue wrapping the second line around both looped strands of the first one, then pass the tag end back out through the same loop it came in through, and gently pull tight. Done.

5. Square Knot

5 Square Knot

Also known as a reef knot, this is also used to connect two separate lines.

Start by wrapping the two lines together, left over right. Then wrap the tag ends over each other again, this time right over left. Pull the two standing ends apart and you’re done.

Having trouble with one or two? Check out the simple videos at for step-by-step instructions.


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