Many working lines on a boat are secured on a horn or T cleat with this
hitch. You will also use it to tie mooring lines to dock cleats.
Sometimes when tying a cleat hitch, there will already be
load on the standing part of the line. The job of the hitch
is to transfer that load from your hand to the cleat.
n Take a full turn around the base of the cleat so that the working part
(in your hand) has passed under both horns. (If you expect a lot of load on
the line and the cleat is big enough, add another half-turn on the base for
n Wrap the working end up and diagonally across the top of the cleat and
under the opposite horn.
n Bring the end back diagonally across the first wrap (mak-
ing an “X” over the center of the cleat). You can visualize
steps 2 and 3 as making a figure eight around the cleat.
n Repeat 2, but this time, tuck the working part under itself to make the hitch.
When you become adept, you’ll flick the “locking tuck” in with a quick twist. If the
line in question is one that will be watched and adjusted frequently (like a jib sheet),
you could forgo that final locking tuck and instead simply add another full wrap or two
around the base of the cleat.
When the rope is made with materials like natural fibers, a highly loaded cleat hitch
could bind so hard the only way to undo it is with a knife. Conversely, some modern
synthetic ropes are so slippery that a simple cleat hitch won’t hold. The solution to both
problems is the same: Take another turn or two before making the locking turn.
This story was excerpted with permission from the excellent handbook Sailing Made Easy,
available from the American Sailing Association at www.asa.com
Know Your Knots! To see a BoatU.S.
video of how to tie a bowline and a
cleat hitch, see this story online at
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