A Primer on Knots, Hitches and Bends
Posted by John Dunaway on

Seamanship relies heavily upon the ability of one to work with line in a multitude of ways. Although the elements at sea call for constant application of these knots, hitches and bends, any good man and woman should have the basic knowledge of these for use.

Before we get into the specifics, you need to know the difference between the three categories. At its best, you'll be worth your weight in salt, at the least you can win a bet over a cold beverage. Knots are put into a piece of line. Hitches secure a line to a fixed object. Bends combine two lines.

BOWLINE. If you only learn one knot, make it the bowline. She will give you a bight (eye) to work with and never bind under a strain. That lone end is called the "bitter end." Put an eye in the standing part of the line and dip your bitter end through it from below. The rabbit goes out of the hole and around the tree. The rabbit goes back into the hole. Now cinch up and you're all done.

BECKET or SHEET BEND. Used to secure two lines of different diameters or any line that has a bight (eye) in it. FYI your bowline made a bight when it finished. Pass the smaller line up through the eye. Pass around the back side. Pass under your original line, but not back into the eye. That's the bend. Pass around a second time and you've made a double becket or sheet bend.

CLOVE HITCH. When you need to secure your line to a spar, rail or stanchion, heck just about anything, this is your go to. Pass your line around the top of the rail back towards yourself. The line on the right will be your standing. The left will be your running. Cross the running back over the standing and over the rail towards you from the bottom. Pass the standing underneath your last cross. If it looks like an X you're secure. Now you can work the standing to pull on for leverage, secure to another object or hang gear.

Practice these knots, bends and hitches so that the next time you need to secure something your grandfather will be proud. The old saying, "if you don't know a knot, tie a lot" is rubbish. A good knot holds and that's all you need. Piling up line is a good way to get yourself hurt or damage something you believed to be secure.

Come on back for a few more tips on working with line including how to splice your own eye into some 3-strand. Let us know if you've got a question on these or something else you may want to learn that'll come in handy both at home and in the field.

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