3 Essential Boat Knots | Learn to Tie

Mark from MISSION covers three essential knots that all boaters should know. These three essential boat knots will help make a day on the water easy and comfortable.

There are hundreds of knot options for very specific purposes, but the Cleat Hitch Knot, the Clove Hitch Knot and the Bowline Knot are truly the best basic boating knots to get you through your day (and make you look like a pro!) on the water.

How to tie a Cleat Hitch Knot

The Cleat Hitch Knot is essential knot number 1. The cleat hitch is great for tying up at a dock. It’s a super simple knot that can be done by dropping a spliced eye over the cleat or you can sport a bit more secure version using the steps below.

If you already have a spliced eye, or loop on your line, place the line through the hole at the base of the cleat and then loop the eye over each horn. Smooth sailing.

If you are working with the free end of the line:

  • Be sure to wrap the rope in the direction the boat will be pulling.

  • Wrap the rope around the horns in a figure-eight motion (crossover and then crossover again).

  • Twist and pull the rope under and wrap each horn again.

  • Pull the free end tight and you have the neat, tidy and secure Cleat Hitch Knot.

INSIDER TIP: If the lines are not nice and tidy you may have one of the lines crooked.



How to tie a Clove Hitch Knot

The Clove Hitch Knot is an essential boat knot for tying up to a post.

  • Go around the post with your line.

  • Loop the free end under the previous loop (you’ll want to repeat this 3 times).

  • The key is to loop under with the free end to make a clean knot.

SHORTCUT: If you are coming up to the dock and need a quick clove hitch knot, try this shortcut: make two loops with the line and cross them before looping them onto the post. It’s super slick and makes you look like an expert.

If you're mooring for a long period of time, some boaters prefer to put an overhand knot or two on this line just to tie up the free end of the tail, but it's not necessary if you're just doing a short tie up.


How to tie a Bowline Knot

Finally, the most versatile and universal knot (according to Mark) is the Bowline Knot. This can be used to create a loop in a line and is a great knot for your arsenal. The key to this knot being so powerful is that it won’t tighten up on itself and you can be easily untied even if the line has been under load.

  • Start by making a loop at the standing or load end on the bottom of the loop as shown in the video.

  • Next, put the free end up through the loop you created and then around/under the load-bearing line and back through (downward motion) the loop again.

  • Pull the line tight.

Now you have a secure loop that can be used for a cleat hitch knot, looped around a post or pole, or used as a rescue knot.

BONUS: Watch until the end as Mark explains how to use this knot in a rescue situation.