Preferred knot to make fast to a rail?
I've been debating with myself the last few weeks about the best way to tie up at a float which has low, wooden rails along the edge rather than cleats, and I am hoping folks here can shed some light on the proper technique, as I haven't found anything completely satisfactory yet.
I was using a conventional clove hitch, as is suggested with bollards, but that turns out to be a pain in the ass when you have much excess line, as you have to pass it beneath the rail a number of times to both make fast and let go. So I switched to a slipped bowline; easier to tie, stronger if anything, and quick to let go if one were compelled to leave in a hurry. But it's impossible to maintain tension on the line while tying it, which is sometimes a drawback.
But I've been looking around as I pass through various harbours and marinas and noticed that no one else seems to use either of these options. Some of the knots I can't identify, and predominantly what seems to be used is simply a great mass of overhand knots slapped on top of one another (with any leftover line left tangled about on top). This is true both of pleasure boats and fishing boats that I have seen.
Chapman's and the Annapolis Seamanship manual are both silent on the subject, presuming cleats or bollards in every instance.
Now, I've always understood the "shoelace" technique to be incorrect for two reasons: one, it's not as secure, and two, it's not easy to untie in a hurry. That's a very real concern to me; in addition to the ever present threat of fire (I think there has been an average of one major pier or marina fire a year in Puget Sound in the last five years) there are more prosaic concerns; I just helped land a 60+ foot motor yacht in high wind which was no picnic... he had a good open stretch to fit into, but the harbourmaster originally was wanting to sneak him into a barely big enough spot between a number of other boats, and let me tell you, if I had been one of them, I would have wanted the option of getting out of the way damn quick.
So, what's the consensus? Does anyone know the "proper" knot to use when tying up to floats with rails?