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Do You Tie a Knot or Tie a Lot?

Have you ever heard the expression “If you can’t tie a knot, tie a lot?” Surely every sailor has either said it or had it said to them (though hopefully only at the very beginning of their sailing careers). Recently we’ve seen a few social media posts about knot tying, and it reminded this writer of her own early knot-tying attempts. Yes, she sometimes did tie a lot instead of a knot. Though she defends her actions with claims that when faced with the option of tying a ‘proper’ knot or getting the job done, a strategic set of twists, turns, loops and follow-throughs seemed at times the best solution. However, eventually it became apparent that real knots have a purpose and ultimately a better result than an unruly tangle of line.

So how does an inexperienced sailor learn her knots without driving her captain and fellow crew crazy, or worse, getting herself tossed overboard? Well, fortunately the internet is a gold mine of information about a plethora of topics, including knot tying. And to make it even better, there are entire pages and videos devoted specifically to the best and most useful knots for sailors and boaters in general. How good is that?

Tie a knot
The internet is a great resource, but when you’re offshore and out of service, a book is just as useful.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Monica

Though the number varies a little, consensus suggests there are a handful of knots that, when mastered, can be applied to almost every situation a sailor will encounter. For example, Discover Boating says there are five basic and commonly used boating knots: the bowline, cleat hitch, clove hitch, half hitch and figure eight. The site then gives you a step-by-step instructional video for each. SAIL magazine says there are seven essential knots for sailors, including the stopper knot, sheet bend, two half hitches and rolling hitch in their knot-tying tutorial. And in keeping things simple, ASA demonstrates the bowline, clove hitch and cleat hitch as their basic “three very important sailing knots.”

But what grabbed our attention was a video called “Learn 5 Knots for Sailing.” In this video, Emily (from Emily & Clark’s Adventure) says these five knots are “the only ones ya need” — stopper knot (figure 8), clove hitch, bowline, alpine butterfly, and zeppelin bend. Admittedly, and at the risk of sounding uneducated, this sailor wasn’t familiar with the last two names but did find Emily’s instructions quite easy to follow, and a good resource for someone who still struggles with her knots.

What are your ‘go-to’ sailing knots?

1 Comment

  1. John Arndt 3 years ago

    Chris Boome sent in this video of an impressive, long-distance cleaning job:

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