Know How - Knot a Problem
We’ve roped in Neil Murray, general manager of boating education for New Zealand’s Coastguard to show us how to do the following nine basic knots. MATTHEW JONES reports.
How to tie marine knots
Here’s a brief glossary of the terms used in this article:
* Standing part: The attached end of the rope the knot is tied around.
* Tail end: The unattached or free end of the rope used to tie the knot.
How to tie: bowline knot
The trusty bowline is an easy-to-tie, non-slip knot that forms an eye in the end of a line. It has a multitude of uses, mainly for mooring lines, but can also be used for helping people out of the water, either around their waist or as a foothold.
You may have been taught to tie a bowline by the old, “The rabbit goes through the hole, around the tree, and back through the hole" method. If the initial loop, though, was formed the wrong way around you would end up with an annoying tangle instead. Following is a new method that is easier to tie and avoids this issue.
1. Form an appropriately-sized loop in the end of your line to suit the task at hand (a spare foot is handy for this). Allow plenty of tail and cross the tail end over the top of the standing part of the rope. With your free hand reach through the loop and grab the tail end.
2. Pull the tail end up through the loop.
3. Pull the tail end down hard so it twists the standing part of the rope and forces it to form a loop.
4. Run the tail end back and underneath the standing part of the rope.
5. Run the tail end back through the loop hole made in Step 1.
6. Pull the tail end, then the standing part tight to complete the knot.
How to tie: single and double sheet bend knot
A simple and reliable knot used to join two ropes of equal or differing thicknesses, while remaining easy to untie.
The double sheet bend has an extra locking turn making it more secure and should be used instead of the single sheet bend wherever possible.
1. Form a loop in the end of your first rope by folding it back on itself. Leave plenty of tail. Take the second rope up through the eye from underneath, around the back and then underneath itself just above the eye formed by the first rope.
2. A single sheet bend.
3. Double sheet bend only: Take the tail around the back and underneath itself again.
4. Slide the knot down and tighten up. Pull hard on all ends of the rope to ensure a secure knot. The finished knot should look like this.
How to tie: rolling hitch
This knot is tied in essentially the same way as the clove hitch, but features an additional locking turn to make it more dependable.
1. Make a loop around the rail by going over the top and back underneath, then take the tail end across the top of the standing part of the rope.
2. Working back down the standing rope, take the tail end around and across the top of the standing rope again.
3. Lift the top part of the second locking turn up (opening a loop) and feed the tail end back through that loop.
4. Pull both ends of the rope tight to secure in place. Your finished knot should look like this.
How to tie: clove hitch knot
This knot is quick to tie but should only be used as a temporary measure, as it can slip, jam when wet and work itself loose. It’s handy for quickly getting a fender over the side or briefly tying a painter to a rail. For a more secure knot use a rolling itch or round turn and two half-itches (also featured).
1. Make a loop around the rail by going over the top and back underneath.
2. Take the tail end across the standing part of the rope and then go over the top and underneath the rail again (on the opposite side to the first loop). Lift the top part of this new wind to open a loop then feed the tail end back through.
3. Pull both ends to tighten up and finish the knot. It should look like this.
How to tie: anchor bend knot
The anchor bend (or fisherman’s bend) is a very trustworthy knot used to permanently secure a rope to a spar, rail or anchor ring. It doesn’t slip, so therefore doesn’t chafe, but once fully tightened it does its job so well that it may have to be cut free.
1. Take the tail end up through the eye from underneath and wrap it completely around the eye twice forming two loops, finishing with the tail end running back down alongside the standing rope. Allow plenty of tail then take the tail end underneath the standing part of the rope.
2. Feed the tail end back through the two loops created in Step 1 and pull tight.
3. Take the tail end back underneath the standing part and pass it back under itself to form a half hitch to finish.
4. Pull both the tail and standing ends up tight. Your finished knot should look like this.
How to tie: figure eight knot
The figure-eight is a simple stopper knot used to prevent the end of a rope pulling through a lead or block, while remaining easy to untie after use. It can also be used to stop a freshly cut line from un-laying.
1. Make a loop in the end of the line and pass the tail end around behind the standing part of the rope and back down towards the loop you’ve just created.
2. Take the tail end right around the standing part, underneath itself and then pass it over the top of the loop.
Pull both the tail end and standing part at the same time to tighten.
3. Your completed knot should resemble the number eight — hence the name.
How to tie: reef knot
This knot’s name originates from the fact that it was commonly used to reef sails as it can easily be released using one hand. It should only be tied using thinner diameter ropes (to lessen the chance of it working itself free), limiting its uses. The basic saying to remember when tying it is “right over left, then left over right” as demonstrated, but you can also tie it “left over right, then right over left” if you wish.
1. In keeping with our saying take both ends of the same rope around the sail and cross the tail end of the rope in your right hand over the tail end of the rope in your left hand.
2. Now take the right tail end (which will now be on the left-hand side of the cross) underneath and around the standing part of the opposite rope.
3 (above and below). Next, cross the tail end on your left over and under the tail end on your right.
4. Pull all ends at the same time to tighten up and the knot should look like this. Make sure the two tail ends exit on the same side as their corresponding standing part, otherwise you end-up with an unreliable granny knot.
How to: tie off a cleat
And here’s a little bit of extra value for our readers. There’s no use having a well-tied knot on one end if the other end that’s attached to a cleat lets go. Here’s how to do it properly.
1. Take one full turn around the base of the cleat to act as a shock absorber.
2. Do two or three figure-eights around the cleat.
3. On the last figure-eight tuck the tail end back underneath to form a half hitch locking turn.
4. How it should look. If there is excess tail, wrap it around the base of the cleat to keep it neatly out of the way.
How to: coling a rope
Before you put your ropes away after use, make sure they are dry (or stored in a well-ventilated area), and then coil them neatly to prevent becoming an awful mess while underway. You never know when you’ll need to grab a line in a hurry.
1. Hold the tail end of the rope in one hand (making sure some tail is hanging over) and coil your rope into appropriately-sized loops, laid neatly beside each other, until you’ve got approximately 50cm of tail end left.
2. Take the tail end and wrap it around the coils two to three times about ¼ of the way down until you have around 30cm left.
3. Fold the tail end back on itself to form a loop in the end.
4. Feed the loop back through the eye at the top of the coils.
5. Place the loop over the top of the coils and slide it down, locking the tail end in place and preventing it from unravelling.
6. Voila, one beautifully finished rope coil ready for storage.
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 425, March-Apr 2012.