Sunday, September 06, 2015

Two Unsung Knots

Zebulon, NC

Boaters, and in particular sailors, are supposed to be knot experts.  There's a lot of truth in that.   We deal with ropes and lines every day, and we rely on using the right knot for the purpose and on executing it correctly.

A knot must do three things to be "good" in my book:

  1. It must be easy enough to tie so that we do it correctly.
  2. It must serve the purpose.  A knot that comes loose in service fails this test.
  3. It must be easy to untie.   The thing that makes bad knots bad is often that they become difficult or impossible to untie.
Beginning courses on nautical knots always start with the bowline and the clove hitch. True enough, those are the most frequently used knots.

The next (advanced) step might bring in the square knot, the double half hitch, and the rolling hitch. I use both of those daily but I have not bothered to teach Libby how to do them.

Really advanced courses get into obscure, and rarely used knots. Knots that serve mostly to show how smart you are.

Two of my favorite and frequently used knots are almost never mentioned in knot tying courses. The slip knot and the trucker's hitch.

Slip Knots

The only thing most people know about slip knots is that to untie them, you merely pull on the ends. That makes many sailors believe that they are insecure and inappropriate on a boat.

However, when the main loop of the slip knot is penetrated by an objects, they will never come loose or become too tight to untie. For example, I use a slip knot to tie a line to the tiller. I create the knot, put the loop over the tiller and draw tight. It will never come loose while the tiller sticks through the loop, but pull it off the tiller pull the ends and it unties itself.

I used a slip knot to make a great lasso to catch the fluke of our Luke Anghor Bessie when she is out of the water and needs to be made secure. It is an ideal lasso that can be pulled tight and easily loosened at any time.

Trucker's Hitch

When you need to lash something down on deck, a trucker's hitch is the one and only knot you should need. (That's why truckers use it, duh.) It is very easy to tie and untie. It has the overwhelming advantage of pulling the line taught without the use of turnbuckles.

I use trucker's hitches to lash down our solar panels, and to lash down the dinghy. When we take the mast down and must carry it above decks, we use lots and lots of trucker's hitches.


The following two videos will teach you how to tie a slip knot and a trucker's hitch.

The second video actually ends the truckers hitch with a slip knot to make it easy to untie..  How cool?   I end it with a double half hitch instead.

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