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Useful Knots

Sailing boats seem to have lots of different bits of rope, all with different jobs to do, and where ropes are involved then so are knots. Here are some of the most useful ones for sailors.

Figure of eight

A figure of eight knot is a useful knot to tie in the end of a sheet (rope attached to control a sail when you are sailing) to stop it slipping through any blocks or pulleys.

Cleating a rope

We often cleat a halyard (a rope used to pull a sail up a mast, ready to sail). This is not strictly a knot, but very useful to attach the halyard securely to the mast. Don’t forget the final step which is to make a loop, twist it over and tighten it over the top of the cleat so that the free end is trapped.

Reef knot

A simple knot for tying two ropes together that are the same size. I remember it from the phrase “right over left then under, left over right then under” but you may have a better method!


A very useful knot commonly used to attach a rope to a sail through an eyelet. Its a bit tricky to do (have a look on YouTube for some videos) but its so useful its worth the practise.

Round turn and two half hitches

Another very useful one for tying off all sorts of ropes. We often use this one to tie the boats to a strong point on the beach so they don’t float away on a high tide. I also use it to tie off the loose ends on my trapeze harness.

Clove hitch

Included here for completeness but not one I’ve found much use for sailing as it tends to work loose. However very useful in the garden for making plant supports  using string and canes. (Please do email me if you have found a good sailing use for this one.)

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