NOT THE KNOT I KNOW
“What knot to do and what knot not to do, that is the question I ask of you?” One of the more interesting moments we sometimes have in the world of boating involves the use of ropes and knots. The skipper’s ticket course does not involve assessment of specific purpose knots for boating, however, it does require the skipper to ensure the vessel is secured using lines and cleats. However, I always insist of teaching at least two reliable knots during training for these courses. One day, one of my clients arrived with his own boat, ready to tie bow and stern lines to the jetty with 200lb nylon fishing line, which was of course not quite suitable. Those in the know will be aware of the more common knots used such as the half hitch, round turn and two half hitches, bow line, clove hitch and sheet bend. However, using language like this with someone who is not familiar with the terms, only serves to confuse and that is where the fun can start.
A lot of clients remind me of the comment, ‘if you do not know knots, tie lots’, but after of my them tied about six grannies knots that took twenty minutes to undo, I suggested it was not the best option. The safest and simplest way to practise knots is in the privacy of your home or shed, where no-one can see your mistakes. In my previous life as a school teacher, I would have students check out a clear diagram first, tie the knot on a flat table, then onto a partner’s arm or leg of a chair, then try blindfolded and finally behind their back. Having two pieces of rope sitting next to the TV can be very handy and what better way to subdue a cheeky son or daughter then to practise your knots on them. My dad was a career firefighter, using ropes and knots constantly and as a youngster I remember him teaching me the truckies hitch for tying down loads. Note that since April 2015 truck and vehicle loads are no longer permitted to be tied down with general purpose ropes. Rachet straps are recommended or you may only use certified, non stretch rope.
Splicing is another level of difficulty, but once again it can be very handy for repairing anchor line, joining ropes to cray pots, setting up bow and stern lines, moorings or simply ensuring the end of any rope used for general purposes will not become easily frayed. The more common splices include the eye splice, back splice and joining splice. The common three strand rope is the easiest to splice and the simple tool of the trade is a FID or splicing tool, used for separating the rope strands. For those with a healthier budget, a rope cutter ( hot knife ) that burns the ends of the strands as it cuts, is a great investment and I use mine constantly on my travels too. There are many books that demystify the whole process of splicing or a simple google search will display a wide array of easy to follow guides, especially on You Tube. If you are really interested, then email me and I will send you my own simplified worksheet on knots and splicing.