Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


All Knotted Up!

Four important knots to know for your next boating adventure.

By Brandi Bradford

You’ve got a beautiful new boat, and your friends are anxious to climb aboard and help enjoy your maiden voyage. Now how do you make that fancy “cleat hitch” like they did at the dealership? Knowing a few important knots will help make it easier to manage your new boat at the dock and on the water.

According to Jack Peters, member of both the Galveston Bay Power Squadron and the Houston Safe Boating Council, there are four important knots that all boaters should know.

Cleat Hitch

Used to tie your boat to the dock. It is also a good knot to teach your crew before you leave the dock so they can assist you upon return.

Take the line to the end of the cleat furthest from where the line originates (where the load-bearing weight is). Take one wrap around the base of the cleat and then start a figure 8 across the top of the opposite end of the cleat. Finish with a half hitch turned under, so that the line is coming away from the cleat in the opposite direction from which it came in.


A very versatile knot, used as a temporary splice to make a loop to tie up to a mooring or piling with no cleat available. This is one of your most important knots because it also enables you to tie a loop to create a self-rescue sling out of a ski rope or any other line thrown overboard.

Start by making an overhand loop that looks like an upside-down 6. With the end of the line, come up through the hole in the 6, around the back of the line you’re holding and back down through the hole in the 6. Grab the part of the line that went up through the hole and the part of the line that came back down through the hole in one hand, and the top of the line you were holding in the other, and pull.

I’ve also heard this knot described another way: Starting with the 6-shaped loop in your left hand, think of the other end of the line as the “rabbit.” The rabbit comes up through the hole, goes around the tree (twists to the right, around the top of the line in your hand) and then goes back into the hole (back through the original loop). Then pull it tight. Use whichever trick works for you!

Square Knot

Important knot for light-duty items, including tying two lines together to extend your line reach and to secure items inside your boat. If tied properly, it will create a knot that won’t jam and is easy to untie quickly if needed.

Start with an overhand knot, as if you were beginning to tie your shoe. Start with the right hand over left, and then tie a second overhand knot left hand over right and pull tight. Don’t forget, first right over left, then left over right!

Anchor Bend

If you want to tie something fairly permanently to your boat, this is the knot to use. The anchor bend is great for tying a line to both the boat and the anchor itself. An important note: Use a 3- to 4-foot length of chain as a transition between your anchor and nylon or other line; this encourages the anchor to lie flat and helps prevent line chafing when anchored on rocks or other rough areas.

Take the line in two or three loops around the object being tied to (such as a ring), from the bottom upwards. Then pass the short end of the line through the inside of the standing loops, from the opposite side of the short line. Make two half hitches, or simple loop knots around the longer line below the loops, to secure your anchor bend knot.

Knowing how to tie simple knots while boating is one of the first steps in becoming a good mariner. Happy boating!

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