Sailing Rope Secrets for Safety and Security

Add one or two half-hitches to boost the security of a relatively weak knot, like the clove hitch.
How many times have you tied a knot, bend, or hitch and had it untie itself? Did you know that you can beef the security of any sailing knot in less than ten seconds? Here John Jamieson (Captain John) divulges some knotty secrets:

How Kinks and Knots Knock Down Rope Strength:
Kinks (also called 'hockles') in a line can break fibers. This weakens the line by up to 30% of its original strength. To prevent kinks, coil line before anchoring, docking, or towing. Coil three-strand line in a clockwise direction. Twist your wrist 1/4 turn to the right just before you lay down each coil. This prevents kinks and keeps the coil flat. Coil double braid clockwise without the final twist.

Make Friction Your Friend:
Coil line with a right-hand lay in a clockwise direction. Keep lines organized aboard your boat. That way they are ready for instant use and will run free though blocks or line-organizers.
Tie a bowline knot to a rail, lifeline, or stanchion and you can count on lateral (side) slip. This can cause excessive chafe. Many super secure knots--like the round turn and two half-hitches--lead off with a round turn. This extra pass grips the rail or piling like a barnacle on a boat bottom. And it keeps the knot in place to reduce line-killing chafe. Always make a full round turn first before you tie the knot.

Develop 'Spill' Savviness:
Clove hitches and bowlines can untie from being worked back and forth. This constant strain and slack can cause them to 'spill', or untie themselves. And that could lead to a dangerous situation. Did you know that you can spill a square (reef) knot after just 19 tugs? In comparison, the double becket (sheet) bend, needs about 36 tugs to spill. By the way, the square knots fake cousin--the 'Granny' knot--spills after about three tugs!

If possible, choose a knot, bend, or hitch that doesn't spill as fast. Knots with more turns or those that are doubled tend to offer greater security. A clove hitch has one turn over the top. The more secure rolling hitch has two turns over the top. A single becket bend spills faster (22 tugs) than the double becket bend (36 tugs).

Five Seconds to Boost Knot Security:
You won't always want to take the time to retie a knot. But you can make it more secure with one simple step you can perform in less than five seconds. To use any of these security boosters, you must always finish the knot with a lot of bitter end. Use more line than you think you need to tie the knot. That way, you'll have enough line left over to add any of these additional 'security booster' hitches:

* Good Security - Add one half-hitch
* Great Security - Add two half-hitches

Use these sailing knots secrets to pump power and extra security into any knot, bend, or hitch you choose to tie. You will gain better performance from any sailing rope, extend its life, and save money throughout the sailing season.

John Jamieson (Captain John) with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need for safer sailing worldwide. Visit his website. Sign up for the Free, highly popular weekly 'Captain John's Sailing Tip-of-the-Week'. Discover how you can gain instant access to hundreds of sailing articles, videos, and e-Books!