The Bowline’s Secret…

Does “bowline” sound like a scary word? The King of Knots is often feared unless you know its secret. Follow me as I uncover a little trick that might mean the end of your nightmares…

All the way back from the Egyptian time, to the glorious navy ships, the bowline earned its fame as the king of knots.

The Bowline, King of the Knots.

Why do most people swear by the bowline?

Pros: the bowline tightens under load. You can do it with only one hand. It’s an easy one to untie when offload.
Con: it can also untie itself when flapping about on a sail, it’s not unusual to lose a jib sheet after countless tacks sailing upwind.

In my younger years, I too learned the rabbit story years ago, and YES it works! Most probably I fell in the hole a few times before I found the trick! If you too want to do it with the rabbit story, try it this way.

Identify the two ends, one will be called a working end (shorter) the other, the passive end (longer).
1- Hold the passive end in front of you.
2- Take the working end, go away from you
and come back forming a loop over the passive end. The hole needs to be on top of the passive end for the rabbit to exit its burrow! That’s the trick people forget about. If the hole is upside down, it won’t work.
3- With the working end or “rabbit”, go through/around what you need to tie up.
4- Then get the rabbit through the hole, starting under the hole.
5- Turn around the passive end or “tree”.
6- Then, get the rabbit back into the hole.
7- As you hold the working end and pull the passive end, the bowline tightens.

Well done!!

Here is another way. Let’s try it together.
1- Take one end of the line through what you need to tie up because that’s what you need a knot for.
2- Identify the longer end as the passive end, and the shorter one as the working end.
3- With the passive end, make a hole on itself, leaving the passive end underneath (under the hole).
4- As you hold the hole together with one hand, get the working end from under the hole and coming out through it.
5- Now, still with the working end, go around the passive end.
6- Then, get back inside the hole (parallel to the way out).
7- Hold the working end and pull on the passive end to tighten the knot.

Congratulation! (I’m sure you managed it!)

TIP: Whichever method you choose, the secret is… all in the hole! To remember it easily, just remember if the passive end is on top of the hole, the working end should go through the hole starting from the top. If the passive end is underneath the hole, the working end should go through the hole starting from underneath it. That’s it, that’s all.

Now that the famous bowline has no more secret for you, remember to use it with moderation. The bowline might be referred to as the king of knots but, what is a king without a court? There are so many others knots that would be more appropriate in many cases. In a coming post, I’ll share with you my “top knot list”.

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2 thoughts on “The Bowline’s Secret…”

  1. Nice, Manu!
    The braided covering of my double braided main halyard frayed through at the point where the clutch held it up. The inner core held the sail up but the line slid on the portion with no braid due to its new smaller diameter there, so I had to replace it. I have a nice halyard shackle at the other end, which is eye spiced in. But my rigger advised a halyard hitch, described in animatedknots.com, and that will be a lot easier than learning to use a fid to splice double braid, which I’m sure I would forget during the next nineteen years. The old line served well for 19 seasons, some of them very long ones.
    Best, Roger

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