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Knots commonly used in whitewater boating

Click on a knot in the table below to see animated tying instructions.

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Rarely used alone. A double half-hitch is used as part of a trucker's hitch
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Used to create a fixed loop at the end of a rope. Often used as a running bowline to tie one end of a rope to a bar that will have trucker's hitch on the other end.

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Used to either tie two ropes together, or to create a loop out of single rope so a Prusik knot can then be tied with it

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Can be used as a stopper knot at the end of a rope, as the loop forming knot in a trucker's hitch (in the form of a tucked figure-8, a figure-8 on a bight or a directional figure-8), or a figure-8 bend can be used to join two ropes
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Used to tie two pieces of webbing together, or to make a sling with one piece of webbing - like around an anchor for a Z-drag setup.
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Often used to tie boats down to roof racks or trailers. Other loop forming knots like an overhand slip knot, a tucked figure-8, a figure-8 on a bight, or an alpine butterfly loop are used instead of the directional figure-8 to create the loop.

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A slide and grip knot formed with a loop of rope. Used as part of a Z-drag setup
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Used to shorten a rope. Also known as a daisy chain, monkey braid, single trumpet or bugle braid, and many other names.

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Used to form a loop in the middle of a rope. Sometimes used for the loop forming knot in the trucker's hitch.
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A slide and grip knot using the end of a rope, like a taut-line hitch or rolling hitch. Useful for securing the free end of the rope on bow or stern ratcheting tie-downs that come with some commercial carriers for use on touring kayaks or canoes. Needs a stopper knot, like the figure-8, on the free end after its tied.

Some practical examples of knot usage

  1. Tying a boat on a roof rack with rope (running bowline, trucker's hitch)
  2. Knots for commercial ratcheting bow/stern tie downs (bowline, Blake's hitch, figure-8)
  3. Setting up a Z-drag to extricate a pinned boat (double fisherman's knot, prusik knot, water knot)
  4. Just for fun (diamond or knife lanyard knot, cobra knot, king cobra knot, girth hitch)

Tying a boat on a roof rack with rope

  1. Tie a bowline on the end of the rope.

  2. Turn it into a running bowline around the roof rack crossbar by inserting the free end through the loop..

  3. Take the free end of the rope, go around the boat, under the crossbar on the other side of the boat, then bring the rope back over towards the near crossbar. Tie the eye forming part of the trucker's hitch - use an overhand slip knot, an alpine butterfly loop, a tucked figure-8 or a directional figure-8 as shown here. Make sure you leave plenty of room to cinch the loop closer to the crossbar - it should be near the top of the boat at this point.

  4. Go around the crossbar again, back through the eye and cinch tight.

  5. Finish off the trucker's hitch with two half-hitches.

  6. If you have extra or another rope, tie a knot around the roof rack riser, and a knot through the boat's security loop or handle for insurance. Secure any extra rope so it won't flutter in the wind.
  7. Repeat at the other roof rack crossbar.

Knots for commercial ratcheting bow/stern tie downs

  1. These tie downs generally come with Thule and Yakima roof rack carriers for use on recreational or touring kayaks and canoes, and are available separately from other manufacturers. Assemble bow/stern tie downs per manufacturer instructions - tie end of rope to the eye of the hook using a bowline (shown) or buntline hitch. Put other end of rope through ratcheting pulley.
  2. Connect racheting pulley hook to the bow or stern of the boat, and the other hook to the car (at bumper, tow loop, or a frame hole), adjusting the distance between the two with the rachet. Rachet until snug. Take free end of rope and tie it to the taut side of the rope with Blake's hitch (shown), a taut-line hitch, or a rolling hitch (I like Blake's because it seems to hold better when the rope is slack, so I don't have to tie it every time I bring it out of storage). If using a Blake's hitch, tie a figure-8 stopper knot in the free end of the rope.
  3. Slide the Blake's hitch knot until both sides of the rope are taut.


Setting up a Z-drag to extricate a pinned boat

  1. Equipment needed:
    • Long rope, or throw rope, 1/4" or 3/8" (preferred)
    • Two 4mm (preferred) up to 6mm (ideally 1/2 the size of your main rope), 6' long accessory cords.
    • 1" tubular webbing, 12'-15' long
    • Two locking carabiners
    • Optional: two carabiners, two pulleys (not shown)
  2. Prepare the prusik loops ahead of time by tying the double fisherman's knots in the two small accessory cords.
  3. Connect the rope to the pinned boat (can use optional carabiner).
  4. Tie a prusik knot to the rope with one of the loops within a couple of feet of where the anchor sling will be.
  5. Wrap the 1" tubular webbing around an appropriate anchor and through the prusik loop (or use an optional carabiner). Tie the ends of the webbing together with a water knot to form a sling.
  6. Clip a locking carabiner to the webbing. Clip the rope through the carabiner and lock it (or through a pulley connected to the carabiner). Take up the slack in the rope.
  7. Tie another prusik knot as far out on the rope towards the boat as you can reach.
  8. Clip it to another locking carabiner, then to the rope on the other side of the first carabiner (or to a pulley connected to the carabiner) and lock it. This photo shows everything close together, but that is just for clarity.

The Z-drag gives you a theoretical mechanical advantage of 3:1. Make sure the main rope you use can handle the force that will be generated. The 1/4" rope pictured is Spectra. Always keep your PFD and helmet on to protect you in case any of the rig gives way.


Just for fun

  1. Decorative knotting for a lanyard in paracord. A great way to keep an emergency 10' supply of paracord handy. Uses a girth hitch on the key ring, a diamond knot to form the loop, and cobra knots and king cobra knots to use up a lot of cord. Directions for creating it are here.

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