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Tie the tarp

Practise your knot-tying skills and prepare for water activities with this fast-paced team game.

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You’ll need

  • Rope
  • Tarpaulins or groundsheets with eyelets
A length of rope being tied into a figure of eight knot.
A length of rope being tied into a reef knot.

Before you begin

  • Place sheets of tarpaulin or groundsheets with eyelets at the end of the space. You should have one sheet per team.
  • Set out a selection of lengths of rope and cord at the other end of the space. They should be at least one metre long.
  • You may want to ask some extra helpers to assist with this activity.

Get knotting

  1. Everyone should get into teams of four to six people.
  2. The person leading the activity should demonstrate how to tie a figure of eight knot with a tarp and a cord; this is a stopper knot used for stopping a rope from slipping. It can also act as the base for other more complex knots.
  3. All of the groups should practise the knots.
  4. The person leading the activity should show everyone how to tie a reef knot; it’s useful for tying a line in a loop around something, such as attaching a mainsail to a boom.
  5. The groups should practise reef knots.

Secure your boat

  1. Now, everyone should rescue their teammate by tying their pieces of rope together and pulling their boats (the groundsheets) to safety.
  2. In teams, everyone should stand at the opposite end of the space to the sheets. Everyone should have a piece of rope or cord.
  1. The first person in each group should run to the sheet and tie their rope in a figure of eight knot to the eyelet.
  2. The helper should check the knot and raise their arm. Then, the first person should then return to their team and tag the second person.
  1. When everyone in the team has tied a knot, one of the team members should sit on the tarp while their teammates drag them back to the starting point and tie up their tarp to a pole (or a table or chair leg) with a reef knot.
  1. Everyone should change teams and play again or add in other knots they’ve learned.


This activity tested everyone’s knot-tying skills under pressure. Everyone should talk about what it was like trying to tie the knots at speed. Did anyone forget what to do or fumble their knot? They should know that this is normal and doing games and activities like this in the meeting place helps them feel more prepared on the water.

This activity was also about working in a team. It’s really important to work together on the water to ensure everyone is safe. Talk about the next time the group will be on the water and how they can use their knot-tying skills.


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.

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed. Take a look at our guidance on running active games safely.

Contact games and activities

Make sure everyone understands what contact is acceptable, and monitor contact throughout the activity.

Start with one knot and add in others as the group becomes more confident with the different knots. Helpers can call out the knot they want each player to tie.

Make sure to balance the teams so there are people with different levels of knot-tying experience.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.