Thursday, July 25, 2013

The King of Knots

Do you know how to tie a bowline?

Good. How many ways? Oh, there is more than one way? Yes indeedy, and Mike on s/v Zero to Cruising (aka s/v ZTC) shows us several ways. One that you should definitely learn is how to tie one around your body - you never know when you might have to do this while being drug astern...
“The first lesson a yachtsman should learn is to join the ropes together, sailor fashion.” Vanderdecken
The classic bowline a must-know knot for all mariners. The following video demonstrates both the basic version and multiple others. We find that we use the slipknot version shown in the video much more often than we do the basic one. How many of these variations were you familiar with and even more importantly, will you take it upon yourself to grab a piece of line and work through the ones that you didn’t know?


  1. Rabbit and Tree: How most people are taught the bowline. Make sure you can do it around an object and also both facing towards you and away from you. Many people get mixed up with that.
  2. Slipknot. Very fast. Experience will tell you how long you need to leave the tail. This is a good method to use when you want to have it ready to go to make fast to something that will be under load (a sail, a mooring ball pennant, etc.).
  3. Enhanced, Double and Water: These three versions all add additional friction. A bowline is a good knot but if unloaded, it can come loose, especially when in the water. These versions lessen the chance of that happening.
  4. Bowline on a Bight and Portuguese Bowline: Both of these create double loops which could be improvised as a bosun’s seat. Note that the loops in the Portuguese version are not fixed. If you pull on one it will slide making the other loop smaller. This will not occur on the Bight version.
  5. Around your body: Good if someone throws you a line when you’re in the water. Better practice it on land first though!

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