The Best Boat Cleat Knot (And The Big Mistake Most Boaters Make)

By: Joseph Simonds on December 26, 2019
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cleat hitch knot

The sun is just about to peak over the horizon…

Birds are diving…

Mullet are jumping…

You can already tell it’s going to be a great day of fishing.

But when you get to the dock, you see your boat floating away!

Has this ever happened to you?

Hopefully knot, but it does happen more often than you’d think!

In this video, Capt. Mark “HOLLYWOOOD” Johnson from is going to show you how to tie the cleat hitch knot so that your boat stays secure to the dock.

Most people do the first half of this knot right, but not the second half, and that’s the part that causes the knot to come undone.

Watch the video below to learn how to tie the cleat hitch knot.

How To Tie The Best Boat Cleat Knot [VIDEO]

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There are two parts to this knot:

  1. Start with the figure eight
  2. Finish it with a locking half hitch

Most people get the figure eight right, but don’t finish it with the half hitch.

If a rope gets stiff from long days and nights out in the open, it can come undone without the half hitch, so that part is crucial for keeping your boat secure to the dock.


cleat hitch knot for boats

Tying a figure eight with a locking half hitch takes about 5 seconds, but it’s more than worth it to keep your boat secure to the dock.

If you’re in the keys and want to book a trip with Capt. Johnson’s fleet, you can do so at

Have any questions about this knot?

Has your boat ever come undone from the dock?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who needs to tie their boat more securely, please TAG or SHARE this with them!

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Gregory Toews
Gregory Toews
6 days ago

Oh my! I replayed this a few times to make sure I was seeing the locking properly. Surely you’re not doing the locking hitch incorrectly. The locking hitch MUST cross over, and have the figure 8 look when it’s finished, or it’s not truly locked. Your lock kind of runs along the side. Tsk tsk..

Henry Davis
3 months ago

As pointed out already, the cleat hitch should have a wrap around the cleat at least once before the figure 8. AND if there is a singing tide or river current without it may well strip out your figure 8 or worse lock it so you can not easily untie it. Further, for boats as big as my captain’s gig (36 feet), two turns are recommended before the figure 8 to prevent seizing of the knot. Having to cut your mooring line to leave the dock once will make you remember this rule until you die. (So will watching your brother do it just not quite as embarrassing.) If you always tie it the right way, your boat stays where you put it and can easily cast off when ready. Don’t be hacking up your mooring line to leave!

Thomas Schneider
5 months ago

Great Video Hollywood! Just wanted to touch on one point: When I was a deckhand in the USCG they always taught us to put a full turn on the cleat before starting the figure 8. The full turn helps lock down the line from slipping should you forget to finish off the figure 8s with a locking hitch. All very simple common sense things to do so that you can enjoy fishing instead of chasing your runaway boat.