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Sailing School Skills: Essential knots

Youngster on bow-resizeIf you are learning to sail at our sailing school cruising in the waters around Vancouver Island, then whatever CYA course you are doing, there are some essential knots that all sailors will need! Once a piece of rope is brought onboard your yacht and has a task allocated to it, then that rope becomes a line and whatever task it may be performing, there is a knot, hitch or bend that can be used for it’s given job!

Types of Knots

Generally knots fall into three categories;

Knots – which is when there is a tie at the end of a line – such as, the bowline or stopper knot.

Bends – This refers to ropework that ties two ropes together – they normally have ‘bend’ in their name as ‘bend’ in sailing speak means ‘to join’, eg Sheet Bend.

Hitches – this is when lines are secured to a cleat or a piling or stanchion, eg Clove Hitch.

Here is our sailing school guide to the essential knots for Sailors!


This is probably the most well known and most useful knot onboard a yacht! It is used to form a fixed loop at the end of a line that cannot run or slip, thus is very secure, and also easy to tie and untie. It is commonly used to secure sheets to the clew of the headsail. Also two bowlines can be used to tie two lines together. The best thing about a bowline knot is that it is always easy to untie, no matter how tight it may have become. This knot can be well remembered with the old rhyme about the rabbit coming up through the rabbit hole, round the treetrunk and back down the rabbit hole!

Clove Hitch

This is a very handy knot to learn as it can be tied very quickly. It is most commonly used on board yachts for securing fenders to the lifelines and stanchion posts. It is really handy as it can be quickly and easily adjusted to raise and lower the fenders as you need them. It is also a great quick way of securing yourself quickly to a piling, but it is not the most secure as it can work itself free as the boat moves around.

Stopper Knot

This is a great knot to use to stop a line from pulling through a block or a rope clutch. It is very hard to come loose so it is great for using in those instances when you need it to stay secure. The easiest way to tie a stopper knot is to loop the end of the rope twice around the palm of your hand, then tuck the working end under the two loops and pull the loops off your hand.

Sheet Bend

This knot is ideal when you need to securely tie two lines of different widths together. Often a square knot is used for this task, but a square knot can often come loose if it’s not under load. The sheet bend though is more secure and is easier to untie.

Cleat Hitch

A cleat hitch is used for all the times you tie a line off, be it on a cleat, a dock or on deck. All sailing schools should teach you the proper way to tie a cleat hitch, it should be very easy to tie, effective and easy to release under load without the worry of losing a finger or two in the process!

Two half hitches

This knot is commonly used to secure the end of a line to a fixed object.  It is one half hitch, followed by another half hitch, and it forms a running noose that is easily made bigger or smaller. Also it is great if used on top of a clove hitch as it stops the fender whip from slipping.

It is never too late to learn knots, whether you are back at sailing school or just reminding yourself, it just takes practise and you will master it pretty quickly. Learn what the knot should look like when completed and keep tying it over and over again – remember that the ends of a line can be either “working” which means it is free, or “standing” which means the end is secured to something.



Nanaimo Yacht Charters & Sailing School Ltd
1690 Stewart Ave Nanaimo BC BC Canada V9S 4E1
1-250-754-8601 / 1-877-754-8601 Start Price 1000 CAD
Nanaimo Yacht Charters & Sailing School Ltd
1690 Stewart Ave Nanaimo BC BC Canada V9S 4E1
1-250-754-8601 / 1-877-754-8601 info@nanaimoyachtcharters.com

Nanaimo Yacht Charters & Sailing School Ltd.
1690 Stewart Ave Nanaimo BC, Canada V9S 4E1
Email: info@nanaimoyachtcharters.com

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