useful knots for sailing


While there are literally hundreds of knots out there in the real world, on the Implied Consent,  we use only a few.  Now, I’m not a knot Nazi (sorry...Godwin’s Law), but I am a knot afficionado (since my boy scout days), and I like to make sure that the captain and the crew tie their knots correctly.

The following knots are frequently used on Implied Consent:

  1. cleat knot (animation)

  2. flemish flake (description)

  3. reef knot (animation)

  4. bowline (animation)

  5. clove hitch (animation)

  6. Lineman’s knot (animation), also known as the alpine butterfly

  7. buntline

  8. coiling a line (animation

  9. Stopper knots:
    -  Figure 8 knot (animation)
    -  Stopper knot, my favorite (animation)

I know that there are many other useful knots (including the sheet bend, buntline, and sheepshank), but the aforementioned knots are by far the most used on the Implied Consent.


Here is a great animated knot website, and the source of all animation above

The Bowline

The Bowline Knot is one of the most used loop knots. This variant is most used in the world. Probably due to its simplicity, security, and its relationship with the Sheet bend.

If the loop is expected to be heavily loaded, the bowline is, in fact, not secure enough. There is a rule of thumb which states that the loose end should be as long as 12 times the circumference for the sake of safety

The Tucked Double Overhand

If you need a good looking and strong loop this is a good candidate. The Loose end must be at least two to three rope diameters long. But if you make the loose end inflexible with for instance glue, resch or by melting and you can hide it almost completely inside the two round turns. The "tucked double overhand" is a permanent loop. It jams badly, but that´s what it is made for.

The Alpine Butterfly or Lineman's Loop

An excellent easy to tie loop for applications needing a loop in another place than the rope-end, but somewhere in the middle. It has an excellent lead, and is secure even if the forces on both ends are stronger than the load in the loop.

The Bloodknot Stopper (double overhand)

The bloodknot is beautiful, thicker than the common overhand knot or figure eight.  It was often used at the end of a whip, and hence the name bloodknot.  It is also called the double overhand knot, as can be readily seen in the first picture.  This knot has several ways of tying and in principle two ways of working up. Both ways of tying shown here will result in the same knot.

The bloodknot shown in the second diagram is the preferred way of working up the knot.  You can add loops to make a larger stopper, and it looks great.

Be careful, because the bloodknot can be difficult to untie after it has been under stress. If you put an object through the cross-marked hole the knot will work up as the strangleknot. It is useful to practice this way.

The (Flemish) Eight or Figure Eight

This knot is larger, stronger and more easy to untie than the simple overhand knot. It does not harm your rope as much as the overhand knot does. So therefore sailors use this knot in most cases when a quick stopper knot is needed.

The Buntline

The buntline hitch gains its name and reputation from square rigger duty. To help in furling the sail's bunt (belly), a long line was tied into a cringle (loop) in the boltrope on the foot. The line was led aloft to the masthead and then through a block down to the deck, where it was pulled to gather the sail as sheets were eased. The knot securing this line to the cringle had to be small, so there was little chafe, and also firmly knotted—it was too far aloft to be retied if it opened up.

So where the buntline met the bunt, security was a far higher priority than facility. Several parts of modern rigging have the same requirements and that is why a buntline hitch is excellent for tying a rope halyard to a shackle or tying a reefing line, lazy jack, or topping lift to the boom. You'll find other uses for this terrific little knot. It takes a little practice to learn how to tie, but in time it will be as second-nature to you as the good old—and not always trustworthy—bowline.

The Buntline hitch is formed by making a clove hitch around the standing part such that the second half-hitch is made on the side towards the object.  The turns of the clove hitch must progress towards the object, otherwise the much less secure two half-hitches will result.

The Buntline

This version is preferred when attaching rope to another rope.

The Double Becket Hitch

Here is a nifty way to attach a jib sheet to a jib without using any metal connections:

Here is the double Becket hitch in action:

Some (Clarifying) Definitions:

Warning!  Stickler alert!  Some sailors like to lecture the lubbers about rope vs. line, and the various names given to line on the boat.  While I am all for clarity of communication, and naming things by their correct name enhances clarity of communication, it sometimes gets out of hand (my opinion). 

Having said this, here is a bit of information that may help the hapless lubber avoid the “It’s not a rope!” lecture.

Rope vs Lines

  1. Rope is what you buy at the store on a spool

  2. Lines are pieces of rope cut to length and put into service

  3. Exceptions are:
    ◦bell ropes, and
    ◦bolt and foot ropes on sails

  4. Some lines have special names
    ◦painters on small boats
    ◦lead lines
    ◦anchor rodes

Types of Knots:

  1. Anything you tie in a line is a knot (general sense of knot)

  2. A knot, in the strict sense, is tied in a single line
    ◦square knot

  3. A bend is a knot that joins two lines together
    ◦sheet bend

  4. A hitch is a knot that ties a line to an object
    ◦clove hitch
    ◦rolling hitch


Why all the hub-bub, bub?