How to Tie a Cleat

by Rebecca McCusker February 07, 2019
ReadHow to Tie a Cleat

I grew up on the East Coast, where we spent every weekend on the family yacht, sailing around Narragansett Bay and mooring overnight in quiet coves. By the time I was 11 years old, I had saved up enough babysitting money to zip around Wickford Harbor in my own Sunfish. I trimmed sails, tacked and jibbed, and righted my boat when it capsized.

But among these skills, sailors don’t get far without knowing their basic knots. Perhaps the most important knot of all is the cleat hitch, as it’s the only way to tie a boat to a dock and detach it quickly if need be.


For practice’s sake, you’ll need a sailing line and a common dock cleat.

First, wrap the line around the side of the cleat that’s farthest from the boat. (So, if the entering line is coming from your right, you’ll wrap the line around the left side of the cleat.) This way, the line can pull on the base of the cleat, keeping the boat in place.

Second, wrap the line three-quarters of the way around the cleat and pull the line over the right-side cleat horn, down toward you. The line you’re holding should be parallel to the entering line that leads back to the boat.

Loop the line under the opposite side of the cleat horn once, creating a figure eight.

Lastly, flip the line into a loop in the opposite direction from the entering line. Fit this loop around the right-side cleat horn and tighten. You should end up with one line perpendicular over two lines on the dock cleat.

That’s it! You now know the most important skill to docking a boat.

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