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Bowline

February 18, 2013

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I've spent a lot of time--in books, magazine articles, on this site, and in person--talking about avoiding using the bowline. The other day, Dave, Mr. Anti-Bowline himself, tied one and I teasingly repeated his words back to him, "Are you sure that's the right knot for the job?" Failing to see the humor, he responded, "Yes, as a matter of fact, it is." So apparently, it's time to talk about the bowline.

There are dozens of variations on the simple bowline and just a many ways to tie each one. Here we'll talk about two different varieties. In one instance, you are tying a bowline in the end of a line with nothing to tie it around. This type is often called a &"finger bowline" because you just use your fingers rather than a solid object. You would use this method to put a loop in the end of a line that does not already have an eye spliced in it. Once the bowline is tied, you can bring a bight of line through the loop you have tied in the end and put that over a piling. DO NOT, however, tie a bowline directly around a piling. This creates too much opportunity for chafe. Likewise, do not use this method to put an eye in the end of a line in order to tie another line to it, such as to lengthen mooring or anchor lines. A sheet bend is best in that situation, again, because of chafe.


Tying a finger bowline

To tie a "finger bowline" start with the bitter end in your right hand, the standing end in your left.


Bitter over standing

Place the bitter end over the standing end and hold both lines in your right hand


Rotate

Now rotate your right wrist clockwise.


Now you know the hole is the right way

This creates a hole with a line through it.


Bitter under standing

Take the bitter end (coming out of the hole) under the standing part


Down the hole

Pass the bitter end DOWN through the hole you had made when you rotated your wrist


Tighten

Pull the standing and bitter ends to tighten


Loop in the end of a line

Now you have a loop in the end of a line.

The other way to tie a bowline is around something. The clew of a sail is a good use for this method. Though we have tried other knots for the job, we always end up returning to the bowline to tie sheets and halyards to sails. (As big and clunky as they are, they're still lighter and less painful than shackles when they smack you in the head as the sail flogs.)Continue

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