Essential Knots for Dinghy Sailing

There are a lot of knots you can learn.  And the vast majority of them are very useful, each having it’s own time and place (situation) for it to be used.  The following is a list of useful knots for dinghy sailing as required for the Phase II class of yacht that is used by Evan’s Bay Yacht and Motor Boat Club for it’s Learn to Sail program.  Hence some useful / essential knots of other classes have been missed.

The Most Important

If I had to name just 2 knots at the most important it would have to be the Figure of Eight and Bowline.

Figure 8

Figure 8The Figure 8 (or “Figure of eight”) is used as a stopper knot. It’s nice feature is that you can always untie them no matter how tight they become.

Animated Knots by Grog: Figure 8

Usage Locations: Mainsheet tail, Cunningham (downhaul) tail, Jib Cunningham, Barberhaul/Tweaker tail, Kick (Vang) tail, Traveler/Bridal tail.


Bowline used to secure the jib sheets to the jib
Bowline used to secure the jib sheets to the jib

The Bowline is used for attaching a rope to an object, often used at the beginning of a pulley system. It’s nice feature is that it holds under load but is very easy to under when there isn’t any load on it.

Animated Knots by Grog: Bowline

Usage Locations: Jib sheet, Kick (Vang), Cunningham (Downhaul), Jib Cunningham, Mainsheet, Traveler/Bridal,

The Very useful

Obviously those 2 knots are not going to cover all situations.  The following I class as “Very Useful”.  It’s a good thing to know how to tie them and where to use them.

Half Hitch

Half Hitch securing the forestay
Half Hitch securing the forestay

The Half Hitch classically used to tie off the end of a rope to keep it tight.

Animated Knots by Grog: Half Hitch

Usage Locations: Forestay

Fishermans Knot

Fishermans Knot securing the 2 jib sheets together
Fishermans Knot securing the 2 jib sheets together

This knot is magic for tying two ropes together that aren’t nesscesarily going to be under load.  It’ll stay done up when it’s not under load and is easy to break apart later.
Reef Knot
The Reef Knot is is used for tying two ropes together that are usually under load.

Usage Locations: Tying the jib sheets together

Cleat Hitch

Animated Knots by Grog: Halyard Cleat Hitch

Usage Locations: Securing the Jib and Main Halyards

Gasket coil

The gasket coil is the classic way we use to coil up the jib and main halyards to keep them tidy, just incase when we are out there that we need to low the sails.  It also makes derigging the boat less painful if the halyards don’t look like spagehti.

Animated Knots by Grog: Gasket coil

Usage Locations: Keeping the Jib and Main Halyards

Other useful knots for boating

These knots are worth know too.

Double Overhand

Double Overhand
Double Overhand

Like the Figure 8 the Double Overhand is excellent as a stopper knot, however it’s not so easy to untie.  Keep it for ropes and control lines that you don’t have to untie often (if at all).  Don’t use this knot on your mainsheet, in an emergency you may need to use your main sheet as a tow line, so it’s best to use the Figure 8 knot instead.

Animated Knots by Grog: Double Overhand

Usage Locations: Kick (Vang), Barberhauler/Tweaker, Cunningham, Outhaul, and other control lines (note: do not use on your mainsheet)


Animated Knots by Grog: Boating Knots