A Knotty Problem, but Important!
Knots perform important tasks in sailing and boating, and it is useful to know which is which. The purpose of knots in sailing is mostly to secure something using ropes, sheets, or lines and it is said that there are eight basic knots.
Most of the knots in use have been developed and used since men and women first ventured out onto the water and their reason for doing so helped create knots for fishing, securing lines and sails etc. The 8 basic knots are thumb knot, reef knot, figure of eight, timber hitch, clove hitch, sheet bend, sheep shank, and slip knot. Old sailing hands know many more knots, and in days of sail hands would use complex patterns of knots to create outstanding artwork to pass the time on long voyages.
The thumb knot or overhand knot is a simple stop knot, it should be used if the knot is intended to be permanent. It is often used to prevent the end of a rope from unravelling.
Reef knots are flat knots often used when applying a sling for a broken arm because they lie flat and are used by sailors for reefing and furling sails. It is important in such uses to be able to releasee the knot, reef knots are ‘bends’ that will release when required.
Timber Hitch, Bowyer’s Knot, Lumberman’s Knot, Countryman’s Knot is a non-jamming knot used to attach a single length of rope to a cylindrical object. Secure while tension is maintained, it is easily released even after heavy loading.
Clove hitch is an all-purpose hitch that is easy to tie and untie. A useful and easy knot to tie, the clove hitch is a good binding knot. As a hitch it should only be used with care as it can slip or self-release if the object it is tied to rotates or if constant pressure is not maintained on the line.
Sheet bend, for joining ropes of different thickness together i.e. a throwing line with which to draw a heavy warp or hawser into place where the warp is too heavy to lift and throw.
Sheep shank is a type of knot that is used to shorten a rope or take up the slack, but it is not a stop knot. It provides loops, shortens or removes slack from a rope or bypasses a frayed section of rope.
Slip knot, is used to secure something to a post, a boat to it’s mooring for example. It is a stop knot that may be slipped instantly by pulling on the end to withdraw a loop.
Boating is fun, especially if done correctly. New beginners are recommended to undertake a course of training to develop their skills. Knots may be taught on the course, if not chat with experienced hands in the sailing schools, or sailing clubs and learn from them, doing so will save a lot of time and embarrassment – at the least. Take pride in doing your boating professionally, you will enjoy it all the more.
Author: R. Langley