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About Nautical Knots

All boat operators routinely use lines or ropes to secure the boat to a dock or attach it to a mooring post or buoy. Lines can be made of either natural or synthetic material. Each type of material has its strengths and weaknesses.

  • Nylon rope is strong, stretches, absorbs shock, and resists rotting from sunlight. For these reasons, it is often used for tying up to the dock. However, nylon rope will sink, not float. It usually is not recommended for use as an anchor line.
  • Polypropylene rope is inexpensive and will float, but it deteriorates quickly in sunlight. This type of rope usually is used as a ski rope and is not recommended for use as a dock line or anchor line.
  • Other rope materials to consider include polyester and natural fibers such as cotton, hemp, and sisal.

Regardless of the type(s) of lines or ropes you use, make sure they are well-maintained. Store ropes dry, clean, coiled, free of kinks, and out of the sunlight.

Tying knots is an important skill for boat operators that improves with practice. Knowing how to tie knots securely will not only keep your boat and equipment secure when tying off to piers and mooring buoys but also may be crucial in an emergency if you are forced to anchor in open water during bad weather.

Types of Nautical Knots
  • Figure Eight Bend knot
    Figure Eight Bend

    The figure-eight knot has several uses, including connecting two ropes to make a longer line or making a "stopper" knot in a single line in order to prevent the line from slipping through a hole or a gap in a block or a cleat.

  • Bowline knot
    Bowline Knot

    The bowline is a multi-purpose knot that is essential for boat operators to know. Forming the knot creates a fixed loop on the end of the rope or line—a loop that can be used for hitching, mooring, or lifting.

  • Anchor Bend knot
    Anchor Bend Knot

    A type of hitching knot, the anchor bend is used to secure a rope to an anchor or a ring. If additional security is needed, a half hitch can be tied at the end.

  • Cleating Hitch knot
    Cleating Hitch

    Used to attach a line to a cleat on a dock, the cleating hitch is formed by wrapping the line around the base of the cleat, then forming one or more figure eights around the cleat. The knot is secured with a half hitch.

  • Clove Hitch knot
    Clove Hitch

    The clove hitch is handy for temporary fastening, such as when tying up to a piling. It's particularly useful because—with experience—it can be tied with only one hand. For extra fastening power or for longer periods of time, add two half hitches after tying the clove hitch.

  • Round Turn and Two Half Hitches knot
    Round Turn and Two Half Hitches

    Handy for tying down a bulky load or tying a boat to a mooring post, the round turn and two half hitches is versatile. It is a secure knot that does not jam and is easy to undo.