Well, this is a short one: Coming back from my 540 miles sailing trip to Stockholm I have hundreds of great pictures to sort, dozens of story concepts to filter and develop and a myriad of impressions and emotions to work through to bring this in a readable form. But what is burning on my mind is this: Why is a good portion of skippers apparently still not able to tie up their boats in the proper way?

A true mooring horror …

I´ve visited six marinas in the past 14 days and what I often noticed have been these overly loaded cleats, those huge piles of wrongly tied ropes. Pyramids of stacked wannabe-hitches, their loose ends warped around the poor cleat just as a Boa Constrictor would suffocate it´s doomed prey. Why is this?

How to tie up your boat the proper way: The cleat hitch

I don´t know. Well, admittedly, I sometimes catch myself putting the last hitch the wrong way – but I always realize it and will finally manage to place the last turn just right. It is so simple to tie up a boat the right way. First step is to realize that you do not need twentyfour turns on the rope to have the expensive yacht moored safely. It´s exactly three turns. Three.

It´s a three time 90 degree turn of the rope´s end – NOT a full circle around the cleat!

So, when I land my boat, the coming end of the rope from seaside goes around three corners of the cleat. It will NOT complete the turn as the fourth and last is the first diagonal foldover. And then it is exactly one another last turn with the finalization of the hitch that makes it due process. That´s it. Nothing more. You really do not need more turns.

Here we go.

So, this procedure isn´t just simple, fast, almost fail-safe and right, it is also beautiful. Just look at this cleat hitch – it´s a materialization of the beauty of sailing. The simple pulling of ropes, the catching of the power of the winds in canvas, the turning of a rudder in the flow of water. It´s just a simple, beautiful hitch. Please – do it this way, let´s have the piles of stacked ropes banned.

Skipper´s Essentials: Competence in details

I know it may sound odd and picky, but I am convinced that following the ancient, simple rules isn´t just bare beauty. It´s an expression of a competence of the skipper and his ability to transfer his abilities onto his crew. When I board a boat it´s those details which are summing up and can tell a lot about the ship´s master. A cleat hitch here, a clean coiled rope there, a properly packed mainsail – these details are mounting. They are a Vcard of the skipper.

That´s how a proper cleat hitch should be looking like

When I land a boat I always spend a good amount of time to get things sorted both on deck and under deck before adhering to the old tradition of the mooring beer. The sails have to be stored nicely. All ropes coiled and stowed away or put to the reeling, the logbook filed and closed properly and fenders secured in the right height. When I leave a boat, I want that the boat speaks for itself, even when I´m not aboard. A nicely done cleat hitch is one, but deciding, detail.


You may also like to read:

Skipper´s essentials: The proper sailing knife

How to be a good skipper, parts 1 and 2 

My first time as skipper