Sailing Knot Secrets – 10 Seconds to Safer Sailing Knots!

It’s amazing what a difference a properly tied knot can make, but even the best of us make mistakes now an again. Captain John from www.skippertips.com gives us some surefire ways to make sure our knots stay tight.

How many times have you tied a knot, bend or hitch and had it untie itself? Did you know that you can beef up the security of any marine knot in less than ten seconds?

Before you move on to knotting, you’ll want to know what happens when a line bends, wraps around, or ties to a rail, piling, spar, ring, post, or another line. That way, you will know how to get the maximum performance from any line aboard your cruising or racing sailboat.

How Kinks and Knots Knock Down Rope Strength

Kinks (also called “hockles”) in a line can break fibers. This weakens the line by up to 30% of its original strength. To prevent kinks, coil line before anchoring, docking, or towing.

Coil three-strand line in a clockwise direction. Twist your wrist 1/4 turn to the right just before you lay down each coil. This prevents kinks and keeps the coil flat. Coil double braid clockwise without the final twist.

All marine knots, bends, and hitches weaken line to some degree. If you tie a knot, bend, or hitch around a small diameter object–like a rail or lifeline– this can reduce line strength even more!

So what can a sailing skipper or crew do to compensate for the weakness caused by marine knots? Use one or more of these three simple rope strength boosters before you tie a knot.

1. Choose the strongest knot for the job (see the table below).
2. Tie knots onto larger diameter objects–like pilings–if possible.
3. Use larger diameter line for weaker knots or small diameter objects.

How Common Knots Reduce Line Strength
Type of Knot Average Loss of Strength
Anchor Hitch 25%
Round Turn and Two Half-Hitches 30%
Bowline Knot 35%
Clove Hitch 40%
Becket (Sheet) Bend 45%
Square (Reef) Knot 55

Make Friction Your Friend

A turn (left) allows the knot to slide along a rail, lifeline, or piling. Make a full round turn (right) <i>before</i> you tie a slippery knot like the bowline.

A turn (left) allows the knot to slide along a rail, lifeline, or piling. Make a full round turn (right) before you tie a slippery knot like the bowline.

Tie a bowline knot to a rail, lifeline, or stanchion and you can count on lateral (side) slip. This can cause excessive chafe.

Many super secure knots–like the rolling hitch, anchor bend, or round turn and two half-hitches–lead off with a round turn.

This extra pass grips the rail or piling like a barnacle on a boat bottom. And it keeps the knot in place to reduce line-killing chafe. Always make a full round turn first before you tie the knot.

Develop “Spill” Saviness

Clove hitches and bowlines can untie from being worked back and forth. This constant strain and slack can cause them to “spill”, or untie themselves. And that could lead to a dangerous situation.

Did you know that you can spill a square (reef) knot after just 19 tugs? In comparison, the double becket (sheet) bend needs about 36 tugs to spill. By the way, the square knots fake cousin–the “Granny” knot–spills after about 3 tugs!

If possible, choose a knot, bend, or hitch that doesn’t spill as fast. Knots with more turns or those that are doubled tend to offer greater security. A clove hitch has one turn over the top. The more secure rolling hitch has two turns over the top. A single becket bend spills faster (22 tugs) than the double becket bend (36 tugs).
Ten Seconds to Boost Knot Security

Boost the security of any knot with a single half-hitch (left) or two half-hitches (right). Push the half hitches up beneath the base of the primary knot and remove all slack.

Boost the security of any knot with a single half-hitch (left) or two half-hitches (right). Push the half hitches up beneath the base of the primary knot and remove all slack.

You won’t always want to take the time to retie a knot. But you can make it more secure with one simple step you can perform in less than ten seconds.

To use any of these security boosters, you must always finish the knot with a bitter end 18″ or longer.

Use more line than you think you need to tie the knot. That way, you’ll have enough line left over to add any of these additional hitches:

* Good Security – Add one half-hitch
* Excellent Security – Add two half-hitches

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Use these marine knots secrets to pump power and extra security into any knot, bend, or hitch you choose to tie. You will gain better performance from any marine rope, extend its life, and save money throughout the sailing season.

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