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How to Tie a Taut-Line Hitch Knot

There are some knots every boater should know how to tie, and the Taut-Line Hitch is one of them. It’s an adjustable loop knot that allows you to shorten or lengthen a rope or line that's under tension, without having to retie the knot. The hitch slides freely, yet jams under load. It's great for anchoring a boat to shore when the water level will be rising or falling and for securing tent and rain fly guy lines.

Here, Josh Giles, NRS Repairs, an Eagle Scout and outdoorsman par excellence demonstrates the Taut-Line Hitch. The overhead camera work and Josh’s clear descriptions make the steps easy to follow.

You have the rope tied to the boat, rain fly or other object you’re anchoring. You then wrap the rope around the rock, sand stake or other object you’re tying to. You take the free end and wrap it twice around the main stem of the rope, inside the loop. Then you secure the knot with a half-hitch outside the loop. It’s important to properly “dress” the knot so all the coils are straight and compact. Josh shows the Taut-Line Hitch tied with the free end of the rope, but you can also tie it with a bight, or loop of rope.

It’s really a quite simple knot, but the mechanics of the wrapping lock it in place when it’s under load. It’s also simple to adjust; you just slide it along the main stem to tighten or loosen the rope.

The knot was probably first used by sailors in sailing ship rigging. And in a more modern, and remote, location the Space Shuttle crew that performed the second maintenance visit to the Hubble Space Telescope used a Taut-Line Hitch to secure a new thermal blanket over the sensitive instruments, to protect them from overheating from the sun’s intense rays. So, tying this knot may not be “rocket science,” but even an astronaut can tie it!