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Mastering The Cleat Hitch, You're Probably Doing It Wrong

We spend a lot of time servicing boat lifts here in the Maples and Marco Island area and we see plenty of boaters tying their boat to the dock.

Nearly everyone uses a cleat hitch but not everyone is doing it right,

The Cleat Hitch is one of the most important knots that a sailor must be able to tie. In the sailing community, there is almost universal agreement that the Cleat Hitch is the best knot for tying a boat to a cleat on the dock.

The reasons for its popularity are that it is a relatively easy to tie, and just as quick and easy to untie. If you are a boat owner, or even a prospective owner, it is essential that you know how to tie the Cleat Hitch if you do not wish for your prized possession to float away.

Although I mentioned that there is universal agreement about the Cleat Hitch, there is some debate over whether the rope should be completely wrapped around the base once before it is crossed over the cleat.

Reading all the different opinions may leave you confused, so here’s a simple answer: it depends on the relative size of the cleat and the line. If the line is thin or slippery, you may need to either wrap the line completely around the base or add extra figure 8 turns in order to prevent slippage.

However, if your line is thick or creates a lot of friction, there is absolutely no necessity to wrap the line completely around the base. In fact, doing so will only make it much more difficult for you to untie the knot as a part of the line will jam under the cleat.

So how do you tie a Cleat Hitch?

  1. Take the line around the farther cleat horn, and then bring it around to the closer horn. After this step, your rope should have made a U shape around the two horns. If you’re going for the full wrap, repeat step 1 after making a full circle around the two horns (the base).

  2. Cross your line over the cleat, and proceed to make a figure 8 shape on the cleat.

  3. When you’re on the side of the horn closer to your boat, make a loop (half hitch) with the line and tighten it around the cleat. Make sure to turn the loop in such a way that the end of your line is going away from your boat, somewhat parallel to the entering part of the line.

Here's an excellent video that demonstrate the method:

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