There are several knots commonly used in sailing. You won't use every one each day however, they all serve a purpose and each one will prove invaluable at some point in a week long voyage. Most of these are quite easy to tie and with a bit of practice you'll be amazed at your new found skills in rope tying. The knots are listed in their approximate order of usefulness. Several of these knots are also quite helpful around the home or lashing down that sheet of plywood on top of your SUV. So, grab a couple lengths of line and give these a try!
For an excellent animated guide to knot tying go to: Animated Knots by Grog
Bowline. The bowline almost defines sailing because of its versatility, usefulness, and strength. Since it's a popular knot there are many ways to tie it but you only need to know one. Click image for larger version.
Learn how to tie the bowline here.
Round Turn and Two Half Hitches. This is a great, highly useful, and reliable knot. It is a constrictor knot meaning the tighter you pull on the line the tighter the knot gets. Also, it is one of the very few knots that can be tied or untied with tension in the line. Doesn't jam. Doesn't slip. Click image for larger version.
Learn how to tie a round turn and two half hitches here.
Cleat Hitch. this knot has one and only purpose but that is a mighty one; Securing a line to a cleat. Usually best to wrap at further end of cleat first then finish knot with bitter end on your side of the cleat.
Learn how to tie a cleat hitch here.
Rolling Hitch. A knot used to take the strain off another line or object. This second line always runs parallel to the line or object it is tied to. Can also be tied to itself to create a non-slipping loop. Click image for larger version.
Learn how to tie a rolling hitch here.
Learn how to tie a sheet bend here.
Square Knot. Also called a reef knot. Useful whenever you want to tie two lines together of equal diameter but will slip so never use it for critical loads. Instead, use a sheet bend or tie two interlocking bowlines. Click image for larger version.
Learn how to tie a square knot here.
Figure Eight. This is the knot to tie in the end of a sheet or other line as a stopper. This prevents the line from running out through a block or line locker and escaping from you. Click image for larger version.
Learn how to tie the figure eight here.
Learn how to tie a clove hitch here.
Flemish Coil. Not a knot at all but an attractive way to coil excess line on the dock or boat. Coil the line by starting with the end that will be at the center, twist this end clockwise or counterclockwise until you've taken up all extra line. Click image for larger version.
An animated guide to the Flemish Coil is here.
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