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We are experiencing technical issues with our emergency phone line. In the event of an emergency, please contact 01443 508676.

Practice mooring a boat

Discover which knots not to knot in this boat-parking practice run.

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You’ll need

  • Access to the internet
  • Lengths of rope
  • Posts, poles or cleats

Before you begin 

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely. 
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Planning this activity 

  • Take a look at the ‘What knot?’ box below for some tutorials on the knots needed for this activity.
  • Any adult volunteers and young leaders should familiarise themselves with tying and recognising the knots, so that they can help the group.
  • You’ll need a device with internet access to use the tutorials before and during the session.

Introducing the activity

  1. Gather everyone together and explain that today you'll be learning about how boats are moored.
  2. Ask if anyone knows what mooring a boat is. 
  3. Tell everyone that ‘Mooring’ a boat is the same as parking a car. When a car is parked, the driver puts the handbrake on, to stop the car rolling away. When a boat is moored, the crew tie it to a cleat, to stop the boat floating away.
  4. Everyone should make sure they can see the person demonstrating to the knots.
  5. Someone leading the activity, such as an adult or young leader, should show everyone the three most commonly used knots used to moor a boat:
  • the bowline
  • the round turn and two half hitches
  • the cleat hitch

Practising tying the knots

  1. Give everyone some rope or string, so they can have a go at tying the knots. People may want to work in pairs or small groups, so they can help each other.
  2. Everyone should now have a go at tying each of the knots. When practising, you could tie the knot to a table or chair leg. 

Stepping up the challenge

  1. As everyone gets used to tying the knots, pairs or groups could be challenge to tie the knots against a timer or with one hand.
  2. When everyone's tried these challenges, ask anyone can work out why it might be useful to be able to tie these particular knots quickly and with one hand.
  3. Explain that making fast or securing a line quickly can help make the boat safe before it gets damaged or becomes too difficult to moor when in rougher water. Being able to tie the knots with one hand allows you to keep tension on the other end of the rope whilst tying.
  4. Remember, however, the most important thing is that the line is secure. If you tie it quickly with one hand and it comes undone straight away, it hasn’t done its job!

Practising mooring a boat

  1. If they're not already, everyone should now get into pairs or threes. 
  2. In each group, one person should try to tie the knots again while another person puts tension on the other end of the rope. This'll help to simulate tying the knot while the weight of the boat is moving it. The person pretending to be the boat could do this by holding the rope firmly and swaying back and forth. Two adult volunteers or young leaders could demonstrate this if this isn’t clear
  3. Remind everyone to take care not to get rope burns from pulling too hard while doing this.

Taking the next step

  1. Now that everyone has learned and tried tying different ways to moor a boat, you could try to go and do it for real.
  2. If you don’t have an opportunity to try it on a real boat, you could try acting out the steps on land, as practice for the next time.

The bowline

A bowline is a loop tied in the end of a length of rope. When used for mooring, it’s best used on a ring or post that it cannot easily slip off. Under tension, the knot won’t slip or bind, but without tension it comes undone easily, which can be the downside of using this knot. This also means it’s not suitable to be tied or released under strain. You could tie a bowline in one end to loop over a post or ring and then make fast (secure) the other end onto a cleat with a different knot. Leaving the loose end of the rope longer once you tie a bowline can help counteract the knot slipping.

The round turn and two half hitches

This knot is just as it sounds. A round turn is made around the mooring ring or post and two half hitches are tied to keep it in place. The initial round turns are used to take the strain, whilst the knot is made secure with the hitches. More round turns and half hitches can be added for security or for a particularly heavy load.

The cleat hitch

A cleat is a T-shaped peg found on boats and occasionally on moorings. The cleat hitch is a way to ‘make fast’ (secure) the rope without needing a knot. It’s tied by passing the rope around and across diagonally a number of times. Be careful though; if wound incorrectly the rope can slip undone or bind and become difficult to undo.


Mooring and casting off are like take-off and landing in a plane. They’re essential moments in the journey and require close attention and practice.

Making fast a rope is an important skill for anyone out boating, but these knots also have a wide range of uses on land.

What other times can you think of where you might need to secure something like this? What about tying something to a backpack? 

Mooring a boat is made more or less difficult by a number of factors, such as the weather, rope and type of mooring used.

Practising these knots until you’re able to tie them easily will make the experience of mooring in poor conditions easier.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Near water

Manage groups carefully when near water. The guidance on activities near water will help you to keep your group safe.

Water games and activities

Be careful when doing activities with, in, or near water. Check surfaces and reduce the risk of slipping where possible. Make sure you have appropriate supervision for this activity.

Poles and long objects

Be careful when moving poles or long items. Take care if the ends are sharp. Have appropriate supervision for this activity.

Test your skills by trying to tie the best knot you can, as fast as you can. What’s your personal best and could you beat it?

The type of rope used will make learning to tie and understand the knots easier or harder. Thicker rope can make it easier to understand the structure of the knot you’re trying to tie.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

What other knots could you learn for use while boating or in other similar activities? What is it about each one that makes it suitable for the task?

Encourage those that have existing skills or who get the hang of knots fastest to help everyone else out.