Knots are an inevitable part of sailing.  They are required for most parts of rigging There are thousands of knots, divided roughly into practical knots, decorative knots (often called "fancywork"), or both.

If you don't want your knots to be called "granny knot", or - in a less sexist manner - "false knot", you need to learn the proper way to tie them.   It means that they need to be:

  • Mechanically suited to the task, and
  • easy to untie.

It might be useful to learn some terminology before you try out the knots that we'll present to you here, so...

  • FREE END (or a BITTER END) - is the short end of the line: this will be used for actually tying the knot.
  • STANDING PART - this is the long end of the line: this will be under load.

Between these two parts you will have a knot.

  • BIGHT - is an open curve in a line.
  • LOOP - when a bight is closed (that is, when it crosses the line) this is what it's called.
  • OVERHAND LOOP - a loop passing over the standing part.
  • UNDERHAND LOOP - a loop passing under the standing part.
  • TWIST - sort of self explanatory: the line is twisted around another.

And now...  let's tie some knots!

Figure 8 Knot

It's often referred to as "stopper knot", because it is used to stop the end of the line from pulling out of a block or a cleat. The name "figure 8" is derived from the fact that the knot looks like an 8.

  • Pass the line through a block, or a cleat.
  • Make an overhand loop with the free end.
  • Twist the line around the standing part, making a second loop.
  • Pass the free end down through the original loop.
  • Tighten it.

Square Knot

This knot is often used to tie two lines of similar thickness and materials together, for example, when lengthening dock lines, or an anchor line.

  • Take one line in your right hand, and the other in left.
  • Bring the left-hand line over the right.
  • Twist the former left-hand line around the back.
  • Bring the new right-hand line over the left.
  • Twist it around the back.
  • Tighten it.
  • The knot should look symmetrical, and it shouldn't slip.

Clove Hitch

It is used to secure a line around a post, or a piling.

  • Pass the line once around the post.
  • Pass the line around again, this time going over the original line.
  • Tuck the line under the crossing.
  • Tighten it.