Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Boater's Continuing Education: Knots 101

Example of a Properly tied cleat hitch

Ask a group of five boaters what their top most confronting issues are about boating and the list might go something like this:

1. Docking your boat
2. Tying the proper knots
3. Equipment knowledge and maintenance

While the order might vary, you can be sure that the above three topics make the top five list for your average boater.  This is the first in a series of Boater's Continuing Education pieces that we hope will help you past some of the upcoming winter months (in front of the computer) productively and will serve as a resource to review and sharpen your boating 'know how'.

If there are topics you would like to see definitely provide your input by clicking here.  We will do some research for you and post a reply.  A little challenge to aid audience participation: 

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Boater's Continuing Education : Knots 101

Unless you spent time in the Navy, served in the Coast Guard were a Merchant Marine or perhaps started sailing at (say) five years of age- I'd bet that a knots would be on your list of things to avoid.

I was fortunate to have been a Boy Scout growing up, so Knot tying is as natural as (please indulge me) a 'walk in the woods'.  I fully understand that I'm an exeption to the rule for most boaters, so we'll try to cover off on some basics in hopes that you'll walk away with a bit more know how and have a resource you can turn to as a refresher.

Basic Terminology:

It's easy to call all knots- "knots", but for all the purists in the group, Knots can be broken down in to three basic groups based on their purpose:

1.  Hitches:  (e.g. Clove Hitch, two-half hitch etc.)  In general these 'knots' are used to fasten lines (i.e. rope or cordage) to an object such as a cleat or a post, ring etc..

2.  Bends:  (e.g. Sheet bend or carrick bend)  As a whole, these 'knots' are used to tie two lines together.

3. Knots:  (e.g. Bowline , square knot, figure-eight , stopper knot) As a generalization these 'knots' are used to tie the line upon itself.

Some 'basic' boater's knots:

1. Bowline knot:  (pronounced "boh-linn") is one of the most-used knots. It gets its name from the bowline, a rope that held the weather-leech of a square sail forward-closer to the wind- and stopped the sail from being taken 'aback' or turned inside out.  Today it used for a variety of jobs because it will not slip, loosen or jam.  To view a short video of a bowline being tied.

2. Cleat Hitch: Used to secure a dockline, spring line or mooring line to a cleat on a boat or to a dock.  To view a short video on how to properly tie a cleat hitch.

3. Figure-Eight Knot: Used widely on running rigging at the ends to prevent line from running through an opening or to hold the line fast. To view a short video on tying a figure-eight knot.

4. Square knot: An easily untied knot that can be used to tie two ends of knots together.  Used where there will be tension on the line.  To view a short video on tying a square-knot.

So there you go.  These are but a few knots to get you started. If you would like to learn more about knots, my personal recommendation is a book called 'The Handbook of Knots' by Maria Costantino.  It has clear illustrations on how tie different knots.

More on Knot tying:  US Sailing has some additional videos on their website of some common nautical knots.  US Sailing Knot Videos

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