Friday, July 27, 2012

Outdoors tip of the week: bowline knot more than a boater's best friend

Last week a friend untied a line that had been fastened to the bow of his boat for four years.
Called a bowline for obvious reasons, it took only seconds and finger pressure to open a knot invented centuries ago by sailors who needed to tie or free a line quickly.

The bowline is the most useful knot for any sailor, and it also should be learned by campers, hunters, anglers and anyone else who does outdoor activities.

Its biggest virtue is that, properly tied, it never gets so tight that you can't open it.
Its biggest drawback is that it can be hard to open under a load, but on balance it's useful for everything from mooring a boat to tying two lines together.

When I visit marinas, I'm often stunned by the amazing lack of knot skills most boaters demonstrate.
Many never seem to figure out that even a simple mooring hitch around a cleat will jam if you wrap it the wrong way.

Most of the time a knot that jams or comes loose is only an inconvenience, but it can cause a costly accident or result in people being injured or killed.
I knew a man who drowned after his boat swamped when he couldn't release a jammed anchor line in a big sea.

Boaters at least should learn to tie a bowline, clove hitch, trucker's hitch and a proper square knot.

Experienced sailors may suggest others, but those four will give boaters the ability to deal with most situations that require them to tie a line to something, free one quickly or lash something down.

These are the best knots for specific tasks on any sailing vessel.
These are also the knots taught by Coastguard Boating Education NZ :
Figure of Eight Knot / Reef Knot / Clove Hitch / Double Sheet Bend
Bowline / Rolling Hitch /Round Turn and Two Half Hitches / Fisherman's Bend & Anchor Bend

You can learn how to tie knots from thousands of sites on the Internet, many with step-by-step videos.
A great book is "Knots: The Complete Visual Guide," by Des Pawson, with more than 100 knots, bends, hitches loops and splices in 400 pages filled with excellent illustrations.

If you can't be bothered learning to do it right, you always can follow the advice that America's Cup sailor Gary Jobson once offered as we watched a power boater fumbling with his mooring lines at a dock:

"If you can't tie good knots, tie lots of 'em."

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