Guide to How to Tie Types of Sailing Boat Rope Knots

Sections: Knot Tying Sailing Boat Knots Whipping a Line

Different types of knots and sailmakers whipping along with tying boat knots. Rope knots guide to tying boat knots and types of bowline to tie up a boat.

Sailing Rope Knot Types

The four primary types of knots are a clove hitch, a bowline, a sheet bend (single and double) and a reef knot. Practice each one, tying it a dozen times, until it can be done by `feel' with eyes closed. Other simple knots, are the Figure Eight, Round turn and two half-hitches, and its variant the Fisherman's or Anchor Bend, and the Rolling Hitch. The Fisherman's Bend and the Rolling Hitch, are often used when mooring, and should be practiced as part of the rope-handling skills.

knot tying

The essence in selecting the right rope for knot tying is that the knot must be capable of being untied. This is demonstrated by throwing another turn in the simple overhand rope knot making it a figure eight at the end of a sheet. This knot can be undone while the overhand knot can tightly jam requiring a spike or knife to undo it.

A Round-turn and two half-hitches are types of knots more suitable to tie up a boat than a clove-hitch because it can be undone, while the clove-hitch will jam under load. When mooring to a [ bollard ], use a line with the bowline knot as it never slips and can be undone after strain. When tying two pieces of line of unequal thickness, the Reef Knot is not used as it will slip so use the Sheet Bend in this application.

Knot Tying Guide

A guide on how to tie different types of boat knots for sailing:

rope knots

Clove hitch

The Clove Hitch is a quick and easy rope knot for making a line or warp fast to a post or spar.

Bowline Knot


One general-purpose rope knot that all sailors need to be able to tie in any situation is the bowline knot and this is the most common type of knot used in attaching a sheet to a sail. It is a secure non-slip knot for making a loop in the end of a line or warp. No matter how tightly it is pulled the bowline can always be undone. Two bowlines can be used for joining mooring lines.

sheetbend 2sheetbend

Sheet bend

These types of knots are for joining together two ropes of unequal thickness, or bending a sheet to the clew of a sail. The two short ends of rope must be on the same side of the finished 'bend' and can be doubled for extra security or slipped if a getaway is required.

double sheet bend

Double sheet bend

Should be used instead of the sheet bend if the two ropes being joined are of considerably different thickness.

Reef knot

reef knot

For joining together two ropes of the same thickness and commonly used when reefing the sail. Not as suitable for springy new synthetic ropes unless a triple knot is made and the ends tucked under.

round and two half hitches

Round turn and two half hitches

One of the secure locking type of knots for making a rope fast to a post or ring-bolt on a jetty.

Fisherman’s Bend

fishermans bend

Another of the secure locking type of knots similar to a round turn and two half hitches. It is used for making a warp fast to an anchor or a piece of line to a bucket handle a mooring warp to a ring: the greater the pull the harder it locks.

rolling hitch

Rolling Hitch

The rolling hitch works by tightening its grip as the pull increases,but it should be tied so that it strains the rope in the required direction. The rolling hitch is used as an emergency hitch when a sheet fouls and jams on a winch.

A sheet jammed under load can be freed by attaching a spare rope or sheet to it with a rolling hitch then taking the tail of that rope to a spare winch. Using that winch, it relieves the load on the jammed rope and allows it to be freed off the riding turn.

figure 8 knot

Figure-of-eight Knot

A bulky rope knot for preventing the end of the sheet from running out through a block, but can be easily untied.

Whipping a Line

Whipping a line prevents the end of the rope from unravelling. Preventing synthetic ropes unraveling is done by by heat-sealing the ends, but line whipping using twine is a neater solution

  • Form a loop in the end of the twine and lay it along the rope with the loop towards the end of the rope.
  • Wrap the long end of the twine around the rope, moving towards the rope end.
  • Pull each turn tight.
  • When the turns approach the end of the rope, pass the end of the twine through the loop.
  • Bury the tail under turns.
  • Pull hard on the short tail of the loop to bury it under the turns.
  • Trim both twine ends close to the line whipping.

types of knots and knot types used in sailing

types of knots