The simple hitch (when tied onto an object) or half hitch (when tied on to the rope itself) is the most basic knot. By itself it will not hold anything. It is most often used to provide some extra security as an addition to another knot.
However, it you put two if them together, in a clove hitch or double half hitch, well then you have got something. The two identical loops snug up against each other to hold tight. This knot is used to quickly tie off to a vertical or horizontal post or piling. Use it to tie you boat to a dock or tree when a quick release or short duration knot is required. This knot works best when there is steady tension on the standing part. The standing part is the end of the rope that goes off to the kayak or what ever else you are tieing up, opposite from the free end of the rope.
In a properly tied clove hitch, the rope continues in the same direction around the post. The two ends come out on opposing sides of the post. It the two ends wind up on the same side of the post, the second loop was reversed. That false knot will not hold as the strain on the standing part loosens the knot instead of tightening it.
The bowlin is the most dependable of the simple knots. It is secure under all situations. When you want a knot that will hold for sure, this is the one to use. The only drawback to the knot is that when placed under great strain, it will tighten down and become very hard to remove.
Start by passing the line around the object and back out to the standing part.
Make a loop in the standing part. The standing part goes to the underside of the loop. If you make the loop the wrong way around, the knot will fail when you tighten it. Pass the free end UP through the loop.
Pass the free end under the standing part and back DOWN through the loop.
To get a bowlin apart turn the knot over and push the loop around the standing part down. This will loosen the loop allowing the standing part to be pushed into the knot to loosen the the standing part loop. Work alternately loosening the two loops.
Tighten the loops. A proper bowlin is two loops that tighten down on each other and look somewhat like an "eight".
The bowlin can be tied with just one hand. If your arm or hand is disabled and you need a knot around you for rescue purposes or other dire conditions, it might save your life to know how to tie this knot one-handed. Here is how.
Start by holding the end of the rope in your good hand. If you are tying the rope around yourself, just spin around while holding the rope. Now you have a loop of the rope around your body. Bring the end forward along the standing part to get enough rope to tie the knot. Cross your hand with the free end over the top of the standing part. Twist the free end of the rope back up inside the big loop around your body. Think of brushing your belly button with the free end.
Bring the free end up and forward. You have now created the loop and brought the free end through, all with one hand and without letting go of the free end. Bring the free end of the rope down and pass it under the standing part with the last two fingers while regrasping the free end of the rope on the other side of the standing part with the top two fingers.
Draw the free end of the rope back down through the loop. You will need slack on the rope while you perform this part. Tighten the knot by pulling on the free end and leaning or placing weight against the standing part. Look Ma, a bowlin with only one hand!
A figure eight knot is a good knot to put in the end of a rope when you want to stop fraying or need a bulky knot for some other purpose. The figure eight knot provides a secure, high friction simple knot that will not work lose The typical right hand knot is unreliable. The figure eight knot is also easy to get apart.
If you need a loop in the middle of a rope, use the double figure eight knot by taking a bight of rope and tying the figure eight just as you would on the end of the line. This knot is realatively easy to untie.
Sometimes you want a knot that will hold when you want it to and slip when you want it to. This seeming contradiction is very useful when tying tent flys or tensioning your tie down on a car - anywhere you want a good knot that is adjustable.
This knot will slide easily up and down the main rope but will hold tight when any pressure is applied to the loop. The loop is usually made using a fishermans knot as shown here.
This knot is used by climbers to ascend a vertical rope when no other mechanical aids are available. In a pinch, you can use your shoe laces or any other small strong cord to fashion a Prussic knot.
If you really need to get a rope tight to tie down something really well use the truckers hitch. This knot provides a three to one mechanical advantage to get really high tension on the rope. It is like having block and tackle with only having a rope. But be careful. If you use it to tie down the ends of your kayak when it is on your roof rack, you can pull hard enough to break your kayak.
Do you know why a nautical mile per hour is called a "knot"? Before the invention of an accurate chronometer, ship captains were able to determine latitude (north south position) accurately by knowing the date and the position of the stars and sun. But longitude (east west position) could not be determined from the heavenly bodies without knowing the time to a high degree of precision. They used "dead reckoning", a guess, to compute where they were. They figured this out from their direction and speed. The compass gave them their direction, They needed a way of telling how fast they were going. A simple device, a "knot meter", was invented to tell them just how fast they were going. It consisted of a blown glass container of sand (an hour glass) that ran for about a half minute and a rope with a small bucket shaped piece of wood on the end. The rope was held at a certain position and the bucket was dropped into the sea. When the starting point of the rope began to run through the fingers of the deck hand, the hour glass was turned over. The deck hand counted the number of "knots" that went through his hand until the sand ran out. The knots were tied in a spacing that corresponded to one nautical mile per hour. Simple and effective, within the technology of the day. But the accumulated inaccuracy of this dead reckoning method is one reason why so many ships wrecked. The accurate stable chronometer made the determination on longitude possible and was one of the greatest inventions of its time. But that is another story..............