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HSH Yacht Articles

Knots

By

Jeremy R. Hood

Whenever the you start learning to sail you have to begin learning how to tie knots. The two just go together and competency in one is reflected in the other. But here's the rub: everyone has their own idea of which knots are the most important. Not only this, but even if you can agree on which knots to learn and use, there are often many different ways of how to tie them. And so in this article I'm going to explain which knots I use most often, when I use them and how I tie them.

Figure 8

You have no idea how many times I go aboard a boat to find that none of the lines have a stopper knot in them. And often its not because they are difficult to tie but because the owners have never been taught about the need for them. A stopper knot is put into a line so that if you let go of it accidently or the wind catches it or whatever, the line will catch at the first block it passes through. Genoa sheets without stopper knots can easily end up blowing out to windward where they are impossible to reach or, worse still, trailing in the water where they are apt to catch round the prop. I use a stopper knot in virtually all lines aboard a boat (apart from spinnaker sheets and guys). The Figure 8 stopper knot is the one I use most.

How to tie it:

  1. Tie a half knot

  2. Undo the half knot and give the loop a twist before putting the end through

  3. Presto, a figure 8 knot!

Uses: To stop a line before it gets out of a block or disappears up the inside of your mast!

Bowline

The bowline is the archetypal knot of the sea. Strong, safe and easy to tie. I use it all over the place including tying sheets onto a genoa, reefing lines on to a pad-eye or around the boom, on the painter of a dinghy or to create an eye in the end of a dock line. But despite its abundant uses aboard a boat many crew find it hard to tie and under pressure it goes wrong! Here's how I tie a bowline most often.

How to tie it:

  1. Tie a half knot (keep the knot flat so that you don't get a loop)

  2. Hold the long end and pull the short end back towards you (so that a loop now does appear in the long part)

  3. Put the short end around the long part and through the loop (so that it goes back the way it came out)

(This is a hard one to explain so use the drawings as much as you can)

Uses: To tie a sheet on to a genoa, a reef line on to the boom, to put a loop in a dock line, to join two lines together (using a bowline in each)

Round turn and two half hitches

This is one of my favorite knots. Its easy to tie and best of all its easy to untie even when the line is under tension. That's why I often use this to tie dock lines to a piling or bollard. If a round turn and two half hitches is used then no matter how much tugging the line has been under you will be able to untie the half hitches and still have control of the line. Compare this to the loops that some use to tie a dock line to a piling. As the line tensioning the loops (reminiscent of a clove hitch) jamb together so much, its often hard to get the thing undone even when there is no tension on the line.

How to tie it:

  1. Take a line round a piling

  2. Tie a half knot in the standing part (with the short end)

  3. Tie another half knot

Uses: To tie a dock line onto a piling or bollard

Cleat Hitch

You would think that putting a line on a cleat is so simple that anyone can do it yet watch your friends as they bring their boat in next time. Nearly everyone seems to have problems with this one at the end when they put the locking loops on. I was taught that these are unnecessary and so I never use them (and consequently don't have a problem!). Once round the cleat, two figures of eight and a final turn around the cleat. When at sea I always ask a crew to end their lines on a cleat like this. That way they don't have problems trying to tie the locking loop and, at night or in a hurry the line is always easy to untie. Have you ever seen what happens to locking turns on a mooring line when the line has been under tension for some time. It takes a few heavy tools and lots of bad words to get it undone. I've never had a cleat hitch come undone despite not having those nasty locking turns. And guess what, when I see the Coast Guard putting a line on a cleat they don't use them either!

How to tie it:

  1. Once round the cleat

  2. Two figures of eight

  3. Round the cleat one more time

Uses Whenever I have to put a line on a cleat!

Rolling Hitch

This is a knot that you don't see that often but when you need it you need it. Ever got a riding turn on a winch with the line bar taut and didn't know how to get it off. A rolling hitch is your answer. Find a line (ideally with a diameter a little smaller than the stuck one), put a rolling hitch on it and take the new line to another winch. The rolling hitch will lock on the line and by tightening the second winch you will be able to get the tension off the line that's stuck. Then its easy to get it off the winch!

How to tie it:

  1. Round the line twice (in the direction you are going to pull)

  2. Cross the line over the two turns

  3. Around once more and tuck it under this last turn (and then work it tight)

Uses To free a riding turn on a winch


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