Sail Fast!

Four essential knots every new sailor should know.

Posted by George Stevens on Sun, Mar 18, 2012 @ 10:16 AM

All new sailors need to know a few knots that will prove to be invaluable. We concentrate on four in our Learn to Sail course at Belle Haven Marina.

The bowline is the one knot to master for all-new sailors. The bowline is an exceptionally versatile knot. It is quick to tie (once you practice), it doesn't slip and it doesn't jam. It can be used to attach jib sheets to the jib's clew. It is a fast way to make a loop, and it can even be used to tie two lines together, though a double sheet hitch is probably preferred.


The cleat hitch is a special knot used to secure a line (rope) to a cleat. Almost all boats have cleats at the bow (to which an anchor line or forward dock line is tied) and at the stern (to which a dinghy tow line or aft dock line is tied). Cleats are also used on many boats to secure jibsheets or other running lines. Learn how to tie a cleat hitch for use in these situations. If a line is not correctly secured on the cleat using a cleat hitch, it can work itself loose. Learn to do it the right way and soon you’ll be able to do it in your sleep.Although cleats come in many sizes and shapes, most standard cleats have two “horns” around which the line is tied. The one shown here is a dock cleat used for tying up a boat.


A clove hitch is frequently used on boats for securing a line around a rail, post, or other cylindrical structure. It is a secure temporary knot used, for example, to hang fenders to the boat’s rails or lifelines how are you. Advantages of the clove hitch include that it can easily be adjusted or undone. Rigging a Sunfish requires this knot for the halyard. 

clove hitch

The figure 8 knot is used to tie a stop knot in the end of running rigging on a sailboat to prevent the knot from pulling through a block, cleat, or other gear. The figure-eight stop knot shown  generally works best and is easy to untie when needed. Unlike the overhand knot, which will bind iron-hard under strain, often requiring the rope to be cut, the figure of eight can be easily untied after even the greatest strain.

describe the image

Tags: Learn to Sail, knots, bowline, figure 8, cleat hitch, clove hitch