Knots - Keeping it where you want it

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Knots are important anywhere there are ropes and lines. Here are some basic knots that keep things put; the clove hitch, bowlin, figure eight, fishermans, truckers and Prussic knots.

The simple hitch (when tied onto an object) or half hitch (when tied on to the rope itself) is the most basic knot. By itself it will not hold anything. It is most often used to provide some extra security as an addition to another knot.

However, it you put two if them together, in a clove hitch or double half hitch, well then you have got something. The two identical loops snug up against each other to hold tight. This knot is used to quickly tie off to a vertical or horizontal post or piling. Use it to tie you boat to a dock or tree when a quick release or short duration knot is required. This knot works best when there is steady tension on the standing part. The standing part is the end of the rope that goes off to the kayak or what ever else you are tieing up, opposite from the free end of the rope.

In a properly tied clove hitch, the rope continues in the same direction around the post. The two ends come out on opposing sides of the post. It the two ends wind up on the same side of the post, the second loop was reversed. That false knot will not hold as the strain on the standing part loosens the knot instead of tightening it.

The bowlin is the most dependable of the simple knots. It is secure under all situations. When you want a knot that will hold for sure, this is the one to use. The only drawback to the knot is that when placed under great strain, it will tighten down and become very hard to remove.

Start by passing the line around the object and back out to the standing part.

Make a loop in the standing part. The standing part goes to the underside of the loop. If you make the loop the wrong way around, the knot will fail when you tighten it. Pass the free end UP through the loop.

Pass the free end under the standing part and back DOWN through the loop.

Tighten the loops. A proper bowlin is two loops that tighten down on each other and look somewhat like an "eight".
To get a bowlin apart turn the knot over and push the loop around the standing part down. This will loosen the loop allowing the standing part to be pushed into the knot to loosen the the standing part loop. Work alternately loosening the two loops.

The bowlin can be tied with just one hand. If your arm or hand is disabled and you need a knot around you for rescue purposes or other dire conditions, it might save your life to know how to tie this knot one-handed. Here is how.

Start by holding the end of the rope in your good hand. If you are tying the rope around yourself, just spin around while holding the rope. Now you have a loop of the rope around your body. Bring the end forward along the standing part to get enough rope to tie the knot. Cross your hand with the free end over the top of the standing part. Twist the free end of the rope back up inside the big loop around your body. Think of brushing your belly button with the free end.

Bring the free end up and forward. You have now created the loop and brought the free end through, all with one hand and without letting go of the free end. Bring the free end of the rope down and pass it under the standing part with the last two fingers while regrasping the free end of the rope on the other side of the standing part with the top two fingers.

Draw the free end of the rope back down through the loop. You will need slack on the rope while you perform this part. Tighten the knot by pulling on the free end and leaning or placing weight against the standing part. Look Ma, a bowlin with only one hand!

A figure eight knot is a good knot to put in the end of a rope when you want to stop fraying or need a bulky knot for some other purpose. The figure eight knot provides a secure, high friction simple knot that will not work lose The typical right hand knot is unreliable. The figure eight knot is also easy to get apart.

Start by forming a loop with the free end on top.

Bring the free end under the standing part, up and back down into the loop.

Tighten up the loops and you have the basic figure eight.

If you need a loop in the middle of a rope, use the double figure eight knot by taking a bight of rope and tying the figure eight just as you would on the end of the line. This knot is realatively easy to untie.

If you need a loop at the end of the rope, tie a retrace figure eight. Start by making a figure eight knot well up from the end of the rope. Bend the free end back to the knot and retrace the line through the knot.

Tighten the knot, This is an extremely secure knot as the retraced line has friction against itself. It is also very easy to untie even after massive amounts of strain.

The fisherman's knot is used to tie together the ends of two like sized lines. Start by laying the ends parallel in opposite directions.

Bend one of the ends back and make two loops around itself and the other line. Take the free end of the looped line and pass it back through the loops. Tighten the loops down onto the remaining straight line.

Do the same thing with the other end. The two free ends should point away from each other..

Tighten the final knot by pulling the loops against each other.

Sometimes you want a knot that will hold when you want it to and slip when you want it to. This seeming contradiction is very useful when tying tent flys or tensioning your tie down on a car - anywhere you want a good knot that is adjustable.

When you have a closed loop of smaller diameter line and you want to tie it to the straight section of another line such that you can tug on the loop in any direction and have it not slide up and down the line, yet still be able to slide it up and down the larger line when you loosen the tension on it, the Prussic knot is the one you want. Start by taking the loop of the smaller line over the larger line.

Loop it around two full turns and continue to pull the loop up through the closed loop until the other side of the closed loop snugs up against the straight larger rope.

This knot will slide easily up and down the main rope but will hold tight when any pressure is applied to the loop. The loop is usually made using a fishermans knot as shown here.

This knot is used by climbers to ascend a vertical rope when no other mechanical aids are available. In a pinch, you can use your shoe laces or any other small strong cord to fashion a Prussic knot.

If you want a knot that will slide at the end of the rope to tension it, such as on a tent guy, use the tent hitch. Be careful because this knot only works if the tension is always present and always from the same direction. Start by passing the rope around the tree, post or piling. Make two loops around the standing part.

Now bring the free end of the rope up against the end of the main loop as shown.

Make at least a half hitch on the standing part. This half hitch loop is absolutely necessary to make the knot function. Otherwise it just falls apart. For safety put another half hitch on to form a double half hitch on the standing part. Remember to keep going around the standing part in the same direction in order to make a proper hitch. This knot will hold well as long as there is always enough tension on the standing part. A flapping line with any slack in it will work this knot loose.

If you really need to get a rope tight to tie down something really well use the truckers hitch. This knot provides a three to one mechanical advantage to get really high tension on the rope. It is like having block and tackle with only having a rope. But be careful. If you use it to tie down the ends of your kayak when it is on your roof rack, you can pull hard enough to break your kayak.

Start by tieing a loop into the middle of the line well away from the post of other strong anchor point. Use the double figure eight for a knot that will untie easily after the tension that the hitch will exert on the knot used here. You can also just use a number of twists in the line with a loop at the end. Take the free end and pass it around the anchor and then through the loop of the double figure eight. Pulling on the free end gives you a three to one mechanical advantage, minus any friction on the rope around the anchor.

Secure the free end of the rope. You can use a double half hitch around both ropes forming the loop to the anchor as shown here

Do you know why a nautical mile per hour is called a "knot"? Before the invention of an accurate chronometer, ship captains were able to determine latitude (north south position) accurately by knowing the date and the position of the stars and sun. But longitude (east west position) could not be determined from the heavenly bodies without knowing the time to a high degree of precision. They used "dead reckoning", a guess, to compute where they were. They figured this out from their direction and speed. The compass gave them their direction, They needed a way of telling how fast they were going. A simple device, a "knot meter", was invented to tell them just how fast they were going. It consisted of a blown glass container of sand (an hour glass) that ran for about a half minute and a rope with a small bucket shaped piece of wood on the end. The rope was held at a certain position and the bucket was dropped into the sea. When the starting point of the rope began to run through the fingers of the deck hand, the hour glass was turned over. The deck hand counted the number of "knots" that went through his hand until the sand ran out. The knots were tied in a spacing that corresponded to one nautical mile per hour. Simple and effective, within the technology of the day. But the accumulated inaccuracy of this dead reckoning method is one reason why so many ships wrecked. The accurate stable chronometer made the determination on longitude possible and was one of the greatest inventions of its time. But that is another story..............




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