The Cleat Hitch

The Cleat Hitch or horn cleat is the most common cleat for tying up a boat and has been used for centuries. The Cleat Hitch is the preferred knot when tying to a Horn Cleat. The Cleat Hitch holds well, and through friction on the cleat you are in control, not the boat. Other names you may see for the knot are; Horn cleat hitch, Horn cleat knot, and probably more.

We are going to demonstrate the correct way to tie up your boat using a Cleat Hitch. The cleat Hitch is a simple knot and you can add more wraps, but the basic knot is enough.

How to tie a cleat hitch

The Cleat Hitch is broken down into 2 parts;

Part 1 is the setup, then you can adjust the tension in the dock line.

Part 2 includes locking off the line so it does not come free.


Part 1; The Setup

Picture 1;

Take your dock line under the horn which is furthest away from the boat.

In this case the bow line goes under the horn pointing in the same direction as the bow.



Part 1; The Setup

Picture 2

Wrap the line around the base. Now the boat is secure and will not get away from you.

With the line around the cleat the friction allows us to hold the boat without a lot of load on the tail.

Before finishing the cleat hitch now is the time to adjust the line.


Part 2; Finish the Knot and lock it off

Picture 3

Start a figure eight across the top of the opposite ear.




Part 2; Finish the Knot and lock it off

Picture 4

Finish with a half hitch turned under itself so that the line is coming away from the cleat under the line going around the horn.




Finished Knot locked off

Picture 5

The finished Cleat hitch. The knot looks like a bridge over a two road highway.

The knot is secure due to the half hitch trapping the tail of the Dock line. Without the Half Hitch trapping a line the tail could come loose and the Cleat Hitch unravel


One Alternative; some people add a full wrap around the base under both horns rather than just the one horn as in Picture 2.

If you have a thin slippery line you may add more wraps