The Only Five Knots You Need to Know

Doug has sailed over 30,000 miles with us on "Morgan's Cloud". He's a dab hand at tying knots.

Way, way, way back in time when I attended our yacht club’s junior sailing class, one of the tasks that the instructors set us each summer was to make a knot board. The kid that made the most complex esoteric knots, most beautifully arranged, on the most beautifully varnished board, won a prize.

I never won that prize. In fact, I never even came close. OK…really…the truth is I sucked big time at knot boards.

So maybe that’s why I decided early on that fixating on how many knots one can tie is at worst an affectation and at best a kind of quirky hobby that has very little to do with being a competent offshore sailor.

Be that as it may, here’s a secret for you: We only need to know how to tie five simple knots to be a competent sailors. Really, that’s it.

Before we get started, I should just say that I’m going to write about how we use each knot, not how to tie them. There are already excellent how-to sites for the latter and I will link each knot to its instructions.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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