Knots to Know: Bowline
An especially useful nautical knot, the bowline is worth mastering early. It’s useful for creating a fixed-sized loop, or eye, to go around a piling that won’t slip or bind under load and can be untied easily after use.
A person in the water can tie a bowline around the waist one-handed to aid in secure retrieval. While sailing, you can use a bowline to fasten a halyard to the head of a sail.
Step-by-step instructions for tying a bowline:
- Start with a small overhand loop far enough from the bitter end to make the larger, final loop of the desired size.
- Continue to form a larger loop and pass the working part up through the smaller loop.
- Bring the working end behind the standing line and back down through the small loop to end up inside the large, fixed loop the bowline forms.
- To tighten, pull the bitter end and the large loop, and pull the standing part of the line away from the knot.
Remember that the working end of the line goes on top when making the first small loop. When the end comes up through the loop it runs parallel to the standing line before being wrapped behind it and back down through the small loop.
If the finished knot loop looks similar in symmetry to a square knot or a sheet bend and the tail end points into the final loop, you’ve done it right.
To untie, take off the load, and the bowline will easily release.
For other useful knots, check out Knots to Know. A new knot is added every month.
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