When you’re about to tie a line to your boat, Step 1 really shouldn’t be “wing it” and Step 2 doesn’t have to be “hope for the best”. Instead, get to know three key boating knots that are easy to tie, easy to memorize, and easy to walk away from while saying “That’s not going anywhere.”

3 Practical Boating Knots to Know

With this visual reference and a little practice, you can confidently tie gear onto your boat, tie your boat up to a dock or slip, and maybe even transfer your boating knots knowledge to other situations as well.

Get to know these three knots and you’ll be set for most situations on the water.

1. Bowline Knot

Primary Uses: The Bowline Knot is great for various uses, especially for smaller items and for easily creating a large or small loop at the end of a line.

Benefits: When in use and under load, it won’t slip, jam, or bind and can be untied easily when not line tension is low. It can also be used to link two ropes and can be useful to tie when you don’t have a cleat.

Cautions: If it’s not loaded (if it doesn’t have a force pulling on it), it can shake undone. Conversely, it can be less than ideal to use when there is an immovable load keeping the line really tight because it can make it frustrating to untie (especially if used for mooring).

Bowline Knot - T-H Marine Boating Knots to Know

2. Midshipman’s Hitch Knot

Primary Uses: The Midshipman’s Hitch Knot is great for creating an adjustable loop in the end of a rope, especially if needing to do so while a line is under load.

Benefits: Benefits include adjustability, its ability to also slide up and down and tightened to provide a secure hold, easy tightening, and potential for use without a cleat. It’s also relatively easy to tie or untie under load and easy to release even when loaded heavily.

Cautions: The main caution may be its relative complexity and how it can be especially prone to sliding if using ropes made of more modern materials. It may even need an extra turn or an extra half hitch to prevent sliding. If you want to use this knot and don’t want it to slip, stay away from slippery ropes, especially those made of Polypropylene.

Midshipman's Knot - T-H Marine Boating Knots to Know

3. Cleat Hitch Knot

Primary Uses: The Cleat Hitch Knot is widely used for quickly tying a boat to a dock using a cleat.

Benefits: As a quick and easy knot to tie, it’s also quick and easy to untie. As a bonus, it’s a knot that ties neatly and can be adapted with extra loops.

Cautions: This may not be your best knot for all situations, especially for certain sailing lines or times when you don’t have a cleat to use.

Cleat Hitch Knot - T-H Marine Boating Knots to Know

Download the Knot Tying Guide Here

If you'd like to keep all three of these graphics for reference, feel free to download the png file below or click here for the PDF version.

T-H Marine - 3 Easy Boating Knots to Know   

When is a Good Knot Not a Good Knot?

Now that you’ve gotten a look at the techniques, what’s standing between you and a confident tether for your boat? It’s likely just practice and good quality marine rope!

If you have old lines that need to be replaced and rope you’re not sure you can trust, check out our selection of replacement options from Boating Essentials®.