Essential Knots

Essential Knots

It is important that all sailors know how to handle ropes and are able to tie some essential knots. Knowing some essential knots makes sailing safer and easier and prolongs the life of the ropes onboard.

Practice is the key to tying knots, once you have these knots mastered, there are many more to learn.

During your RYA Competent Crew course you will learn how to coil and stow the rope correctly and how to tie and the correct use of the following knots:

  • Figure-of-eight
  • Clove hitch
  • Bowline
  • Round turn and two half hitches
  • Reef knot
  • Cleat knot.

The essential knots in more detail:

A figure-of-eight knot is primarily used as a stopper knot in the end of sheets to stop them from being pulled through blocks accidently.

Pros – Easy to tie and untie

Cons – Can work its way loose, leave a long tail to prevent this.

Clove Hitch
A clove hitch can be used to secure fenders onto the guard rail.

Pros – Allows fender height to be adjusted without untying the knot.

Cons – If there is a short tail the knot can come undone.

Used for tying sheets onto sails, and for mooring lines.

Pros – Easy to tie, makes a non -slip loop.

Cons – Cannot be tied or untied if the rope is under load.

Round turn and two half hitches
Used for mooring lines or for tying on fenders.

Pros – Can be tied and untied if the rope is under load.

Cons – None that I can think of!

Reef Knot
Used to tie two line of the same diameter together.  Typically used to tie up loose sail after it has been reefed.

Pros – East to tie and untie.

Cons – Can untie under load.

Cleat knot
Used to secure a line to a cleat.

Pros – Quick and easy to tie and untie, even if the line is under load.

Cons – Can only be used on a cleat.


To learn how to tie these knots, please download our RYA Competent Crew course material pack.

Contact us by email on [email protected], or phone 020 7002 7676.

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