Knots to Know - Before You Go

There are a number of very basic knots with which even the most casual of boaters should familiarize himself in order to ensure that, among other things, the boat stays where it was tied. That in mind, this month’s article deals with the basic knots you can use while boating. Actually, these knots have many uses and come in handy in a number of different applications.


Knot tying is part of the practice of what is known as marlinspike seamanship – the general knowledge of knots and the care of rope. Whether you are the skipper of a small fishing boat or the pilot of a much larger craft, a few basic knots and a few definitions will prove helpful. Keep in mind that rope is rope… but once on board a vessel, it becomes a line.

Some Basic Vocabulary

A line has three parts:

  • A bitter end – that end tied or made fast to the vessel
  • A working end – the end tied or made fast to the dock or other things
  • A standing part – the section between the bitter end and the working end.

In general: a knot is a general term for securing a line to an object, another line or to itself. A good knot is easy to tie and untie, and will not slip under the extreme amounts of tension to which it is generally subjected. Many boats -- poorly moored -- have gotten loose during the night and drifted far from the unsuspecting and surprised skipper.

Basic Knots Every Boater Should Know

The Cleat Hitch, Bowline, Square or Reef Knot, and The Clove Hitch and Two Half Hitches are some basic knots that every boater should know. Actually the Clove Hitch is a knot by itself, but is known to slip without the Half Hitches. (That’s where 4 knots become 5.)

And rather than try to take you through a step-by-step written explanation, I’ll refer you once again to a site to which I sent you last month. There you will see animated gifs that will walk you through each of the knots mentioned. The site also tells you what specific things the knots are used for. It is one of the best I have seen. Follow the link below:

There are many other knots that are useful and helpful. But start with these few basics. It’s amazing how useful you will find these knots to be. You can use them for everything from tying up your boat to tying a clothesline to your porch. All it takes is a little practice and you will soon be an expert! Happy boating… and I’ll see you On the Lake.

By R. Karl