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SEMIJim 07-04-2007 12:20 PM

No, not speed. The kind you tie :)

So The Admiral and I have been studying. Of the three books we have, here's a list of the knots they recommend you know and what I understand of them:

Bowline (pronounced bow-lynn)

Used for: Attaching sheets to a sail. Suitable for many other tasks

Does not slip under (varying) load, very secure.

Clove Hitch

Used for: Tying-up to a fixed point (post, spar, etc.) for short-term
mooring, or for hitching fenders to a rail.

Fairly secure under load. Unsecure when unloaded. Make it somewhat
more secure with a long working end. (Rolling Hitch is more secure.)

Figure-Eight (aka: Stopper Knot)

Used for: End of a line to prevent it from slipping through blocks
and fairleads.

Fisherman's Bend

Used for: Tying an anchor rode to the anchor or a mooring warp to
a ring.

More secure than round turn and two half-hitches. Very secure when

Half-Hitch and Slipped Half-Hitch

Used for: Temporarily tying up to a ring. Temporarily hanging

Somewhat secure when under load. Unsecure when unloaded. (Round
Turn and Two Half-Hitches is much more secure.)

Reef Knot (aka: square knot)

Used for: Tying reefs in big sails. Tying two equally-sized lines

Secure under load. Unsecure when unloaded. The Zepplin Bend is
far surperior for tying two lines together.

Rolling Hitch

Used for: Tying to spars or posts. Unloading a jammed sheet.

Very secure under load. Relatively secure when unloaded.

Round Turn and Two Half-Hitches

Used for: Tying-up to a fixed point (post, spar, ring, etc.)

Very secure under load. Relatively secure when unloaded. Easy to
untie under load. Good for moorings. (Fisherman's Bend is more

Sheet Bend, Double Sheet Bend

Used for: Tying two differently-sized ropes together. Belaying to
a cleat.

Very secure under load. Unsecure (except to a cleat) when unloaded.

Zepplin Bend (aka: Rosendahl Bend)

Used for: Tying two ropes of the same size together.

Exceedingly secure under any load, or none at all.

The Zeppelin Bend (Rosendahl Bend)

The Zepplin Bend is compliments of Valiente.

The secure/unsecure comments come from a combination of what the books say and my own impressions from fooling with them. I'm certainly open to corrections in those comments, in particular.



Faster 07-04-2007 12:41 PM

Looks like you've done your homework.

The beauty of the bowline is that it can be untied easily regardless of how highly loaded it has been. Hence it's popularity for tying on sheets to headsails. It's also an alternative to splicing for multipart sheets and other tackles, but is not as clean and is bulkier.

However, if tied loosely to start with a flogging sail can occasionally "untie" it during the hoist. So be sure to snug the knot up after you tie it.

I'd say reef knots are somewhat passe, with the advent of jiffy reefing as the norm. You can use them to LOOSELY tie up the excess reefed sail with the reef cringles, but unless it's going to be a long haul with the reef few people bother. A common newbie mistake is to tie them in tight to the boom before hoisting - a sure way to tear the cringles out under load - they are not designed for those stresses.

Sheet bends are a great way to extend a line such as a shoreline for a stern tie, among other things.

If you are comfortable with the knots on your list, you'll get by just fine.

Valiente 07-04-2007 01:30 PM

You know more knots than 90% of recreational sailors.

I use a couple of hitches, bowline, bowline with a bight, a lark's head and a specialty knot I personally like called a Zeppelin Bend:

The Zeppelin Bend (Rosendahl Bend)

I suppose I should come up with better tripping and anchor knots, but that will come when I install the windlass...

sailaway21 07-04-2007 01:37 PM

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.

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.

SEMIJim 07-04-2007 02:39 PM


Originally Posted by Valiente
You know more knots than 90% of recreational sailors.


This does not surprise me. As is oft-related here: 90% of recreational "sailors" don't take sailing very seriously. To me: Learning how to do something, and do it well (hopefully - I'm kind of clutzy), is a good portion of the attraction.


Originally Posted by Valiente
I use a couple of hitches, bowline, bowline with a bight, a lark's head

"bight?" "lark's head?"


Originally Posted by Valiente
and a specialty knot I personally like called a Zeppelin Bend:

The Zeppelin Bend (Rosendahl Bend)

What a terrific knot! I love that knot :). Thanks! (Am I turning into a knot knut?) It has been added to the list.


Originally Posted by Valiente
I suppose I should come up with better tripping ...



SEMIJim 07-04-2007 03:00 PM


Originally Posted by sailaway21
A good list no doubt. If you master those you'll find little you cannot do.



Originally Posted by sailaway21
I was taught, and find it useful, to be able to tie a bowline in two ways.

I've been practicing tying them in a bunch of different ways (working end coming left, right, up and down; inside loop with the standing end on top and underneith; normal [working end in the loop] and "left-handed" [working end outside the loop]); thru rings, around a small post, and in free air. I'll have try your suggestions.

I was embarrassed on departing for a race a few weeks ago when I couldn't tie a bowline. That ain't gonna happen again ;).


Originally Posted by sailaway21
I believe the Ashley Book of Knots has been re-issued.

Perhaps I'll add that to my book want list. Thanks!


TejasSailer 07-04-2007 04:19 PM

There are variations of the bowline that are more secure than the "standard" bowline described so far. Ones that I use include:

The double bowline (you can even start with three loops).

Rock Climbing Knots: Double Bowline

An even more secure bowline is the water bowline (recommending the second technique described by Sailaway21).

Water Bowline

And many more, most of which I don't know other than the bowline on a bight.


And finally, a question. Another variation of the standard bowline I've seen tied results with the bitter end exiting to the side of the loop that is formed, rather than inside that loop (the rabbit runs around the tree the other direction). I think I recall being told that the purpose was to keep the bitter end out of the way when putting the loop over a cleat for example. Can anybody validate this purpose or know of another purpose?

capttb 07-04-2007 06:20 PM

In the early '70's while attending a firefighting training school I was retrained to tie bowlines with the bitter end in. I'd been tying them bitter end out which I was informed was the "Navy" way, and fireman tie bitter end in. Beats me how this distinction came about, don't know how they tie 'em on a fireboat.

TejasSailer 07-04-2007 06:29 PM

BTW, there are also variations of the figure-eight that once you know the knot, you can know others such as figure-eight loop, figiure-eight bend and the one-way knot (a bend with the bitter-ends exiting more or less the same way). Also a figure-eight like knot rather than an over-hand knot on a trucher's hitch seems easier to untie.

sailingdog 07-04-2007 07:06 PM

Adding a half hitch to the tail of many knots will make them a good deal more secure.

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