KNOTS, BENDS, AND HITCHES
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER
Everyone can use a refresher on how to tie or coil, a line – so that everything stays
secure and neat — and your life afloat, or at the dock, is easier and safer
THROUGH MOST OF THE AGE OF SAIL, ships and their spars were made of wood and all rigging, running and standing alike, was made of rope. To connect it all together, riggers and seamen devised hundreds of knots, bends, hitches, and splices. Because dock lines and most of the sail-control lines on sailboats are made
of rope, you still need to know a few basic but versatile knots. A common characteristic of the knots we present here is that they are easy to tie and relatively
easy to untie (some more so than others) even after they have been under load.
Knowing these knots will make life afloat easier and safer.
A FEW SIMPLE BOATERS’ KNOTS
A whole subset of language has developed around rope and the countless ways in which it
can be tied. Knots, bends, and hitches are used to tie rope to itself, to other ropes, and to
solid objects; splices involve using the component parts of the rope itself to similar ends. Any
serious boater should have a book of knots in his or her library, but here we’ll stick with a
few common terms that aid in describing how to make the basic boaters’ knots.
When you’re making a knot, the length of rope you hold in your hand is called the working part. The end of the rope you’re working with is called the bitter end. The rest of the
rope, between the working part and its other end, whether it’s faked at your feet or tied to
something on the boat, is called the standing part.
One of the most beautiful and useful boaters’
knots is the bowline (pronounced BO’lin).
The bowline forms a temporary eye, or loop,
in the end of a line.
n Make a small hole with a twist of the line
so that the working part lies on top of
the standing part. (In a popular method
of teaching a bowline, this is the “rabbit
hole.”) How far from the bitter end you
make this hole dictates how big the fin-
ished knot’s loop will be.
n Pass the end up through the loop, under
and around the standing part, and back
down through the loop. (The rabbit
comes up the hole, around the tree, and
back down the hole again.)
n When attaching a jib sheet to the clew of
a jib, between stage 1 and stage 2, pass
the bitter end through the clew ring.
This knot is fun to tie and can save you a lot of hassle. It’s commonly tied at the bitter end
of halyards and sheets to prevent them from getting inadvertently pulled out of the blocks,
fairleads, and jammers they’ve been led through. Like its cousin, the common overhand knot,
the figure eight is bulky, and serves well as a stopper knot. Unlike its cousin, it is easily untied.
n Make a small loop near the end of the line. (Once the knot is complete, it’s nice to have
about six inches between it and the bitter end. This extra line gives you something to grab
onto and ensures the knot won’t come undone accidentally.)
n Pass the end of the line around the standing part and then back up and through the loop.
n Pull both ends tight to firm up the knot. This is a very easy knot to
tie and once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll figure out your own
way of doing it.