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Lines and Knots for Your Boat

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1 Lines and Knots for Your Boat
by Nancy Free

2 Marlinespike Seamanship
Art of handling and working with rope This includes Knowledge of rope materials and construction How to care for your lines Difference between knots, bends, and hitches Basic knots to know and their uses Hands on knot practice Marlinespike seamanship is named for the tool used. Demonstrate a marlinespike. Useful for untying knots and separating strands of line. 2

3 Lines vs. Ropes Rope is what you buy at the store on a spool.
Lines are pieces of rope cut to length and put in service. Exceptions are bell ropes. bolt and foot ropes on sails. Some lines have special names - painters on small boats, lead lines, anchor rodes. Small stuff is string or small diameter cordage used for a variety of purposes, such as whipping the ends of lines, tying sail bags and bundles, securing the ends of knots. A lead line is a line with a lead weight on one end that’s used to measure water depth. It is thrown out ahead of a slowly moving boat. When the line stands straight up and down, you estimate the water depth from the marks on the line. 3

4 Three Types of Rope Materials
Natural Fibers Synthetics Wires (stainless and galvanized) 4

5 Rope Materials Natural Fibers
Natural fibers include Manila (strongest), cotton, sisal, hemp, jute, and flax Manila and cotton are the only ones commonly used today. Natural fibers have disadvantages. are weaker than synthetics shrink when wet are subject to rot Used mainly on tall ships Manila is the strongest of natural fibers and doesn’t stretch much. It’s made from the leaf stalks of the abaca plant, a relative of the banana, grown in the Philippines. Manila supplanted hemp which was previously the strongest known natural fiber. So it was called Manila hemp originally. Hemp, by the way, is made from the stalks of the cannabis plant, otherwise known as marijuana. Hemp was considered the best of rope fibers until supplanted by the stronger Manila fiber. Cotton is used mainly for flag halyards and lead lines. It’s soft and easy on the hands but doesn’t wear well. On sailboats with natural fiber lines (for example, historic tall ships), you have to be sure to loosen the lines whenever it rains. 5

6 Synthetic Fibers Advantages Disadvantages
MUCH stronger than natural fibers, wet or dry Don’t shrink when wet like natural fibers Resist rot, mildew, acids, and alkalis Disadvantages Slippery, don’t hold knots and splices as well May be damaged by heat and UV light It’s advisable to take 5 tucks instead of 3 when doing splices in synthetic lines.* When tying knots in synthetic line, allow extra line to form the knot For extra security, tie knots in synthetic lines with an extra half hitch or two or a seizing. 7

7 Synthetic Fibers Nylon
Advantages Strongest commonly used fiber Won’t rot Most elastic of all fibers – good for lines subject to shock (examples?) Disadvantages Very elastic – bad for lines that need to be taut (examples?) Dangerous if it breaks under strain Slippery, unravels easily Nylon is excellent for anchor lines, tow lines, dock and mooring lines. If towing and deck hardware comes loose, a taut nylon line can throw the hardware like a missile. Nylon comes unlaid, or unravels easily. You can tie a knot in the end to prevent this, but it looks unseemly and unseamanly. Demonstrate a cow’s tail – a frayed end of nylon line tied in a knot to keep it from unraveling further. We’ll discuss a better way to prevent unraveling when we get to the topic of caring for lines. 8

8 Synthetic Fibers Polyester (Dacron)
Advantages Much less elastic than nylon useful for lines that must be taut Nearly as strong as nylon More pliable than nylon Disadvantages Chafes easily under strain Much less elastic than nylon; not good for lines subject to shock. Pass around samples of braided and laid Dacron. 9

9 Synthetic Fibers Polyolefin (polyethylene, polypropylene)
Advantages They float (examples of use?) Cheapest fibers Disadvantages Degrade and weaken in sunlight Weakest synthetics Stiff and slippery; knots may come undone Rough and hard on the hands Polyolefin is a general (class) term for polyethylene and polyproplyene. Polyolefin lines are useful lines that must floatfor small boat bowlines (painters), ski or wakeboard tow lines because it won’t get caught in your prop. Useful for lines on throwable PFDs because the person in the water can see and grab hold of the line more easily. 10

10 Other Types of Rope Materials
Wire rope (usually stainless steel) Used for standing or permanent rigging on sailboats, davits Maximum strength and little stretch Tends to be stiff and inflexible May snag and cut hands Shock Cord Rubber strands covered with synthetic fiber Used to tie down loads Webbing (woven nylon) Strong, holds knots well Used for tie downs, sail stops 11

11 Rope Construction Laid Rope
Most rope is right laid. Coil with the lay to avoid kinks. To construct laid rope Fibers are twisted into yarns. Yarns are twisted in the opposite direction into strands. Strands are twisted in the original direction to form rope. Show an example of right laid rope. Point out how the strands run from right to left. Coil up a line to illustrate what you mean. 12

12 Rope Construction Braided Rope
Made of interwoven strands Smoother and easier on the hands than laid rope Can be single or double braided Double braided has an inner core and is stronger than laid rope of same size. More expensive than laid rope Double braided is more expensive than laid rope, but worth it. Single braided is not seen as often and is about as strong as laid line of same diameter. Pass around samples of various braided lines – nylon, Dacron, and polyolefin. 13

13 Care of Lines Keep all lines, synthetic or natural
Dry and well ventilated to prevent mildew Free of kinks Free of dirt, oil, acid; wash after wetting with sea water Run bow lines through a chock. Use chafing gear on lines subject to wear. Inspect lines for wear every season. Whip lines to keep them from coming unlaid. Avoid kinks! Undo a coil of new rope by pulling it from the inside of the coil. Never put strain on a kinked line. The kink will disappear, but the fibers will be strained and weakened. Chafing gear is a piece of canvas, leather, garden hose, or other stuff tied around a dock or mooring line at the point where it is likely to be exposed to wear or chafing (for example, where the line goes through a chock). Avoid leaving synthetic lines near a heat source. Chafing gear is leather or canvas wrapped and tied around lines where they’re subject to wear, for example, at a chock. Synthetic line, cut with an electric knife. will stay together for a while, butl eventually becomes unlaid. Whipping keeps this from happening. Do not use an overhand knot to keep a line from fraying. This is called a cow’s tail and it is unseemly and unseamanly. Do not allow cow’s tails on your boat unless you’re carrying cattle! Whipping is best done with waxed nylon thread. Inspect the whippings on the sample lines that are being passed around. Temporary and sewn whippings are shown in your book. The easiest type of whipping is plastic dip and whip compounds on the market. Show can of Dip-it Whip-it. These come in several colors and are esp. useful forcolor coding sail Keep lines from fraying by whipping the ends. Synthetic lines when electrically cut will stick together at first, but eventually, they’ll come undone. Temporary ways of keeping lines from coming undone include tape and temporary whipping. Use waxed nylon or Dacron thread for all whipings. More permanent whipping is the sewed whipping and the back splice. Show examples of whippings. An easy, permanent way to whip lines is to dunk them in air-drying plastic coatings. Show can of Dip-it Whip-it. This comes in various colors and can be used to color-code lines for sailboat use. 14

14 Care of Lines Coil up lines when stowing them.
Fake (or flake) down lines that have to run out fast without kinks. Flemish a line lying on a flat surface to give it a neat, flat look. Coil right laid line (almost all lines are right-laid) clockwise or to the right. Then wrap the end several times around the coil, then make a loop of the end to hang the coil. If you want a line to run out quickly without kinking, fake it down. This is useful for anchor lines and for tow lines. In CS Auxiliary crew training. We learn to fake down a towing line so that, when we’re on patrol, we can let out the line in case of emergency. Usually, we leave a lot distance between the ends of the coils. 15

15 Types of Knots Anything you tie in a line is a knot (general sense of knot). A knot, in the strict sense, is tied in a single line. Square knot A bend is a knot that ties two lines together. Sheet bend A hitch is a knot that ties a line to an object. Clove hitch Rolling hitch 16

16 Overhand Knot Simplest, easiest knot to tie. It’s a “not” knot.
Limited use as a “stopper knot” or to keep a line from fraying. Weakens line strength by 50%. May be useful as the start of more complex knots. Never allow an overhand knot in your anchor rode, mooring line, dock lines, tow line, or other “mission critical” lines on your boat. Any knot weakens your line, even a strong knot like a bowline or even a splice*. The overhand knot is particularly bad since it’s small, tight, and kinky and causes a lot of wear on the fibers. Even as a stopper knot or used to keep a line from unraveling, the overhand knot is not much good. The Figure Eight knot is a better stopper knot. Using an overhand knot to keep a line from unraveling produces a “cow’s tail,” which is both unseemly and unseamanly. (Show example.) Instead, whip the ends of your lines to keep them from unraveling. 17

17 Figure Eight Knot Used by sailors as a stopper knot to keep the end of a line from running through a block or pulley Bulkier and better as a stopper knot than an overhand knot Demonstrate a line going through a block, then tie a figure eight stopper knot to show how this keeps the line from running through the block.. Bulkier and easier to untie than an overhand knot Any knot can be made slippery or be “slipped” by tucking the bitter end back into the knot. Demonstrate with the figure eight. 18

18 Square Knot (Reef Knot)
Used for reefing or furling sails tying bags, packages, and shoes Tie it only in single line or two similar lines. (It’s a knot.) Dangerous if used to tie unlike lines; capsizes under strain Used for tying shoes since a bow is a double slippery square knot. Demonstrate by tying a square knot with extra long ends and tucking the ends back into the knot. A bow or half bow is an easier knot to untie than a square knot. It’s a knot in the strict definition, that is, it’s tied in a single piece of line. Never use it to tie two unlike lines together as it tends to capsize under strain into two half hitches around the larger line. The smaller line then slips off the larges line. Dangerous. Don’t use to tie two lines together to make a longer tow line, dock lines, or anchor rode. If used to tie two like lines together, it tightens under strain and it’s hard to untie. Remember: Right over left and left over right. The same end is always in motion. If you switch working ends, you’ll wind up with a granny knot or a thief knot, that is, a badly tied square knot that won’t hold. Granny knot is not a good name because I know several grandmothers who sail and are Auxiliary members. All can tie square knots without any problem. The name Thief Knot dates from the old days of square riggers when sailors, who kept all their belongings in a bag hung at the foot of their hammocks, would tie a granny/thief knot around their bag of belongings if they suspected that a shipmate was messing with their stuff. If, the next morning, the granny/ thief knot, they knew that someone had been into their sacks. 19

19 Sheet Bend, Becket Bend, Weaver’s Knot
Use it to tie two dissimilar lines together a small line to a becket* (loop in a line) Make the sheet bend double or triple for security Make it “slippery” for ease in untying The sheet bend was used to attach sheets (control lines) to the ends of square sails. To tie it, recite “The rabbit comes up out of his hole, runs under two logs (the two side of the bight or becket), comes back up and runs under his own track.” Make sure that the working ends of the two lines wind up on the same side of this knot. To make the sheet bend slippery, simply make a bend (or bight) in the working end of the line before you finish the line. Any knot can be made “slippery” by tucking the ends back into the knot. Such a knot with a bight (a folded, looped over end) tucked into it, is very easy to untie. 20

20 Clove Hitch Use it to tie Easy to untie (esp. if it’s slipped.)
a line to a rail or piling temporarily fenders to a railing Easy to untie (esp. if it’s slipped.) Tends to come undone unless under constant tension Used to tie up a boat to a bollard or piling or to tie a fender to a railing. To make the clove hitch slippery, finish it by making a bend in the end and tucking the bend through the knot. Demonstrate on a rail. Can be made more secure with a couple of half hitches 21

21 Round Turn & Two Half Hitches
Use to tie a line to an object “A round turn an two half hitches will hold most anything.” More permanent and secure than a clove hitch, harder to untie Tie a line to a ring or a post. To make the knot really secure, seize the working end to the standing part of the line. 22

22 Anchor Bend Most secure hitch to attach a line to an object such as a ring or post Use to attach a line to an anchor or a fishhook Similar to a round turn and two half hitches Similar to a round turn and two half hitches except the round turn is doubled, then the working end goes over the standing part then through the turn before doing the half hitches. Demonstrate the knot. The round turn is doubled then the working end goes over the standing part and then is lead through the turns before starting the half hitches. 23

23 Rolling Hitch Used to tie a smaller line to the standing part of another a line under a load make an adjustable loop by tying the working end to the standing part of the same line tie a flag to a flag halyard Demonstrate the knot For example. You want to hold a jib sheet while you release it from a winch or relocate a block (pulley). Note: The first move is to make two loops with the second line around the standing line (first line) in the direction of the strain that you’ll put on the second line. Used on tall ships to hold a halyard holding up a heavy sail while you make fast the end of the halyard. A line called a strop or stop is attached to the deck. This is used to tie a rolling hitch in the halyard until it can be cleated off and made fast. 24

24 Bowline “King of Knots”
Forms a non-slip loop that’s easily untied Called the “king of knots” because of its many uses (Suggestions?) Use the bowline to Make a loop for a dock or tow line Join two lines by interconnecting two bowlines Tie jib sheets to the clew of a jib Serve as a boarding ladder for climbing from out of the water into a boat Loop for a man overboard to grab Tie a line to a ring, including an anchor ring (an anchor bend is better for the last use) Remember, you MUST start this knot with an over hand loop, that is, a loop on top of the standing part of the line. To make sure you start it right, wind a loop of line around your left hand (if you’re right-handed or vice versa if left-handed). This loop marks the place where the finished knot will be. (Step 1 above). Step 2 Bring the working end of the line up through the hole from below. “The rabbit comes out of the hole.” Step 3 Go around behind the standing part of the line (Don’t cross in front of it.) and bring the working end back down into the loop. “Rabbit goes behind a tree, sees a fox, and dives back in to his hole.” Step 4 make up the knot by grabbing the hole and the working end (rabbit) with one hand and the tree with the other and pull. 25

25 Cleat Hitch Secures a line to a horn cleat To tie it -
Take only one full turn around the base of the cleat. Make one figure eight turn around both horns. To make it more secure, finish with an under hand loop (weather hitch) To belay a line around a cleat, take only one complete turn around the cleat. Then lead the line once around the horns in a figure eight pattern. To secure a cleat hitch, make an under hand loop around one horn. This is called a weather hitch. After you do the weather hitch, the line should continue in the same direction as the figure eight (i.e., if it looks smooth and neat, it’s right; if not, it’s not.) Other types of cleats (jam cleat and cam cleats) are quick release cleats, mostly used on sail boats. 23

26 Lead Lines A line with a lead weight used to measure water depth To use it Mark the line at intervals. Coil the line and throw the lead out in front of the boat. When the line stands vertical, note the marker just above the water. A lead line is an ancient device for measuring water depth. Use about 150 to 200 feet of line (braided cotton is best). To tell the water depth, mark the line in standard pattern with strips of tape, knots, or strips of leather. It’s preferable to use marks that can be read in the dark. A lead line with a hollowed out lead filled with wax or other soft sticky stuff can be used to sample the bottom. If you know the bottom in your boating area well, it can give you a clue as to where you are. What’s wrong with this picture? There’s no life line on the boat or even a toe rail to keep the leadsman from going overboard. It’s a good thing he’s wearing a life jacket!

27 Dipping the Eye Technique to use when tying to a piling where another boat is tied. Avoids putting your line on top of the one already there. “Dip the eye” by bringing the loop of your line through the eye of the first line and then over the post. Some times when you want to tie up to a piling, you find another boater is already tied up there. Don’t drop your loop over his. Instead, the courteous thing to do is to “dip the eye” of your dock line loop. If the other boater has to leave before you do, he may simply take off your line and not replace it because he is in a hurry or annoyed with you. To dip the eye, thread the eye splice of your dock line up through the other boater’s loop and then drop it over the piling as you see in the picture.

28 Knot Rodeo Find a sign for a knot that you don’t already know.
Go to the station for that knot and watch the demo and ask questions. Get as much hands-on time as time permits. You can’t learn from looking at pictures. Practice, practice, practice is the only way to learn. 29

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