The Common (And Controversial) Cleat Hitch

BoatUS Trailering Editors

Ask three boaters how to tie a cleat hitch and the debate is sure to follow

Despite the back and forth on this basic boating knot, here are some basics:

Photo of a Cleat Hitch Step 1

Step 1

It's important to wrap the dock line first around the farther cleat horn (in this case the right), then around the closer horn (on the left) before crossing over the cleat and beginning the figure 8.


Step 2

Photo of a Cleat Hitch Step 2

After making the first cross of the cleat with the line and going around the horn (on the right) a second time in a figure-8, make a half-hitch (or just flip the line) so the cleat is crossed again. Note the two parallel lines in the center and that the half-hitch continues the figure-8.


Photo of a Cleat Hitch Step 3

Step 3

Tighten as shown. The working end of the line (right) comes away from the cleat in the opposite direction from which it began.



Photo of a Cleat Hitch Step 4

Step 4

Any remaining length of line should be "flemished" so that it won’t trip anyone walking on the dock or tangle when leaving the dock. The same holds true if the cleat is onboard.


Photo of a Cleat Hitch starting with a full wrap

With Full Wrap

This is how the cleat hitch begins with a full wrap. The next steps are the same as shown above.End of story marker

Knots To Know: More at

This article was published in the Winter 2013 issue of Trailering Magazine.
| 1 | 2


 Recommended Articles
Gray rule

Thumbnail image of a griiping hitchBoat Knots: Gripping Hitches

Gripping hitches transfer tension from one line to another. Learning one might save your boat someday

Thumbnail photo of a finished cleat hitchWhat Knot To Do

For every task on a boat, there's usually a knot that goes with it. Here are five knots commonly used by trailer boat owners

Thumbnail photo of anglers using a shallow water anchoring systemStay Put

Shallow-water anchor systems keep you where you want to be: On The Fish


Trailering Magazine is a benefit of BoatUS TRAILER ASSIST®.

BoatUS TRAILER ASSIST® provides:

  • On-the-road assistance for your trailer and vehicle
  • Special edition Trailering magazines
  • $15 coupon (off $100 purchase) for shopping at West Marine
  • Only $38 Annually! ($24 Membership + $14 TRAILER ASSIST)