Tuesday, March 11, 2014


11 Mar 2014
Kandahar, Afghanistan

The single most useful, virtually essential, knot used in sailing is the bowline.  Pronounced “bowlyn” and not “bow line.”  Don’t mispronounce it….you will “out” yourself as a newbie immediately, and probably receive a little ribbing or ridicule.   

How to tie the bowline…..the makeup of this knot is two separate loops; the first is a small one that becomes the knot, and the second is a larger loop that you will keep.  First loop.small, second loop..larger.

There is a “story” told to assist in learning to tie the bowline;it’s usefulness is up for debate.  I report……you decide.  

“There is a hole in the ground (the small loop).  A rabbit (the tail) comes up out of the hole and runs behind the tree (the standing part). The rabbit circles the tree and runs back down into the hole.” 

This is a silly story, but it is the traditional method of teaching the bowline.

An illustration of how to tie a bowline.

1)  Hold the line across your left palm so that the long, standing part is lying away from you and the tail is several feet long.  Coil the rope counterclockwise so that one small loop is in your hand.

2)  Pass the tail (the free end/rabbit) through the loop from back to front (rabbit coming out of the hole).

3)  Then, pass the tail around the back of the standing part (rabbit around the tree), and then through the small loop (rabbit back into the hole), so that the line passes back along itself. Tighten the knot by pulling on the tail in opposition to the standing part.

4)  I like to add an extra step…it makes the know a little more secure and dresses it up nicely.  After passing the tail back into the small loop, but before tightening it, pass the tail around the bigger loop from the back around to the front and then pass it through the loop at the top of the standing line (the tree).  I found an illustration somewhere on the internet and it is posted below.

I know all the mariners that are out there reading this already know how to tie a bowline….you might be a little rusty, depending on how long it has been since you were out on the water.  

All of you landlubbers…..grab a short section of line (rope) and try it out.  You will be surprised at how easy it is, and, more importantly, you will learn how useful it is over time.  

Who can do it?  Comments welcome.  Good Luck!

A dressed up bowline.

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