Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Knots Every Sailor Should Know

Alpine Butterfly

These eight knots will cover 99% of your marine knot needs.
[click links to more information and instructions on how to tie]

  1. Alpine Butterfly (animation)
    Strong and secure, will not shake out, will not jam, better than bowline. Use Method #4 (video) instead of Bowline.
  2. Bowline (animation)
    Strong, easy to tie, but can shake out if not locked.
  3. Buntline Hitch (animation)
    Great knot for halyards, securing fenders to lifelines, etc, but can jam.
  4. Cleat Hitch
    Use for securing ropes to cleats.
  5. Figure Eight Knot (animation)
    Good stopper knot, can be adapted for other purposes.
  6. Gripping Sailor's Hitch
    Great for securing one rope to another rope under load.
  7. Slipped Half Hitch
    Quick-release knot for sail ties and bags, not secure. Also useful as temporary stopper knot; e.g., for spinnaker sheet at a block (animation).
  8. Square (Reef) Knot (animation)
    Famously used for tying reef points in sails.
Sheet Bend is deliberately omitted because it's weak and unreliable.
Two Alpine Butterflys tied together or two bowlines tied to each other (Bowline Bend) are better alternatives, or for ropes of roughly similar thickness the Alpine Butterfly Bend

More Knot Resources


  1. What about the Water bowline (or even a double bowline) instead of the alpine butterfly? I've never heard of sailors using the alpine butterfly, so I'm interested why you do (or why they don't).

    And why not a double sheet bend instead of the sheet bend, or would you still use two loop knots?

  2. The water bowline is a good knot, more secure than the bowline, but I still prefer the alpine butterfly. I suspect sailors use the bowline out of tradition and simplicity, like the sheet bend, which is still poor even in the double sheet bend version. "The Double Sheet Bend is better than the basic Sheet Bend, but it's not usually considered to be a very secure knot. In Ashley's testing, the Double Sheet Bend came apart after only 36 pulls..." [Layhands.com]