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Old 07-04-2007
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While acknowledging Faster's points on the bowline, I'd mention that he is only partially correct on the ease of un-tieing the bowline. In common use aboard boats he is quite correct; a bowline can be undone by working it's bight back and forth to "break it's back" with only the occasional need for a marlinspike. This is not true for highly loaded synthetic lines. Putting a bowline in 8-strand and then towing with it will most likely result in having to cut the knot from the end of the line. Fortunately there is a solution that still allows the use and security of the bowline in such a situation. If one were to wish to tie a bowline around a bollard and then heavily load it, it is best to tie a half hitch first and then the bowline. If tieing in-hand, you'd make an overhand knot in the bight and then tie the bowline to the hauling part. In this configuration, the half-hitch takes the strain leaving the bowline to do the securing while remaining easily removed.

SemiJim,
A good list no doubt. If you master those you'll find little you cannot do. I was taught, and find it useful, to be able to tie a bowline in two ways. The first is when tieing it around a stanchion or bollard with the hauling part and bitter end both facing you. The bitter end is used to make a half-hitch around the hauling part. Then a sharp tug on the bitter end collapses the half-hitch, making it into an eye with the bitter end pointing up through it. It ie then a simple matter to follow around the hauling part and back through the "eye" to finish the bowline.

The second is easy to do, but less so to explain. If you have the bitter end in hand, and wish to make a bowline in it, so as to drop it over something like a bollard, in essence the bight is facing you. Take the bitter end, with the bight of the line facing your stomach, and cross it over the hauling part at a 90 degree angle. Now take right hand thumb and forefinger and pinch the two parts where they cross. With a flipping motion, you pull the hauling part towards you, and flip the bitter end up through the "eye" you make by the pulling. This results in an eye in the hauling part, with the bitter end pointing up out of it. You then run the bitter end around the potion of the bight adjacent and back through the hole.

As you can see, these are both ways for making the "hole" or eye of the bowline easier to form. And they do take practise. The advantage, that I see, to them is that with either you can tie a bowline virtually blind-folded.

I believe the Ashley Book of Knots has been re-issued. I have the Taiwan issue version.(g) It is basically the Bible of knots. It will tell you how-to tie the most basic knots, along with some of their history, and take you right up to the most elaborate square-knotting and coach-whipping. Along the way, you may fine of interest the proper way of securing a pack to the back of a burro, learning to tie a bow-tie, and just about everything else that can legally be done with a piece of line. We have whiled away countless hours aboard ship exploring Ashley's decorative knots and such. It is a volume that you will not merely read once and shelve, but refer back to time and again for years to come. It is a prodigous work by man obviously fascinated by knots and it was originally written at, perhaps, the most ideal time it could have been. Ashley arrived right at the end of the golden age of sail, born in 1881, and so was able to capture the seamanship of the soon to vanish whaling ships and others. So much of that era, particularly the skills of the shipwright, has been lost to time and we are fortunate that, due to Ashley, that knot-tieing did not go the same way.
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