Cruising Life: Ropes and Knots
By Brian Minton
Sailors need a real working knowledge of ropes and knots simply because they manage the sails that drive the boats. That does not let power boaters off the hook. A working knowledge of this topic will make your time on board easier and safer, while also adding some interesting opportunities.
Safety is the first call to action. When a line is under load – a dinghy towline, for example – its failure can result in someone being injured since the line will recoil at a rapid clip when it separates. This is precisely why you see many tow boats with Plexiglas panels behind the helm.
Tying the dinghy towline with the right knot will allow you to do a quick release. Hopefully, it will never happen, but if you need to cut the dinghy free in five-foot seas, you don’t want to be searching in the galley for a steak knife. Protecting your investment is next on the list. If a line is not properly cleated when the boat is left in its slip, there is a risk of it being damaged in the wind and possibly even sinking at the dock.
Knowing how to coil lines to stow them results in a neater ship and will let you access the line later without spending time unsnarling the spaghetti on deck. This is particularly important when a life ring is involved.
A working knowledge of ropes is necessary before working with knots. Using the right line for a specific application will optimize strength (it should be strong enough, but there is no point in huge over capacity). Abrasion is the biggest risk of line failure. Choosing the right line for the application just makes sense.
For step-by-step photos on how to tie some of the most important nautical knots, as well as information on types of rope and care tips: Read the full article