Wednesday, 17 October 2012


   There must be dozens if not hundreds of different knots one could learn that would be useful in one way or another aboard a boat. For practical purposes most of them may not be needed to a leisure sailor as five or six basic knots could well cover the majority of situations on a small yacht. Knots such as the clove hitch, rolling hitch, figure of eight, round turn and a hitch or two, sheet bend, reef knot, anchor bend, tops'l bend, and possibly my most used knot the bowline. Actually that little lot amounts to ten knots, and if you add one or two variations plus one or two of what I call exotics which sometime get used such as a monkey's fist, which I find great for bowhauling as well as throwing to dogs, a couple of three strand splices, some whipping, seizing and that basically covers most of my sailing. Others needs may differ though and one may have a penchant for sheepshanks, carrick bends or turks heads even? Practising a few knots is just one way to keep seamanship skills live, and along with it a link to our seafaring ancestors, even knots that you personally perhaps would never use.  Other than the obvious boat handling under sail and navigation, we practise seamanship, perhaps subconsciously too, by the simplest of tasks such as cleating off a halyard or coiling a rope, in choosing a suitable place to drop anchor such as avoiding a lee shore either to stay afloat or dry out for the night, or raising a black ball when at anchor in daylight.

We practice seamanship in many ways.
Leather mousing a hoop to the mains'l luff
  I watched the tide retreat last Saturday and fasted from the squelching sounds and smells of mud and mire, and crept below the seawall at Goldhanger SC headquarters, for the practise seamanship initiative that was implemented by consolidating our knowledge (or lack of) of knots by holding a practise your sailing knots session. Attendees to the event were supported by flagons of tea and platefuls of sandwiches and cakes.. The lemon drizzle was particularly nice.. let me see, how did that splice go again? From our initial ropework requests we were taken through various knots, even one request for a truckers dolly knot came in. (I know, there's always one!).   The session was lead by Maldon's world famous 'Knotman' who can be found on the quay there throughout the summer months tying decorative knots of all descriptions or rigging a barge or two.

  While most yachts on moorings slowly leave the rivers and creeks for the shelter of hards and club compounds many folk will begin studying charts and reading material to decide on next years cruising plans. I will no doubt join them but my seamanship initiative will continue over the winter layup to as I have persuaded one of our old sea dogs, and we have a few real salty ones down the creek, to lead a sculling session or two, which, as well as practising the art should be good fun.


photocurio said...

Hi Creeksailor, very nice article as usual. Learning new knots is one of my favorite forms of winter 'sailing'.

One question: what is the balck ball that one raises when anchoring in daylight?

Creeksailor said...

Hi NeonTetra - The ball can literally be a black ball hoisted forward, but Plastimo do a cheap plastic fold flat type. Some barges ive been on raise a black tyre. But to be honest I see many boats that do not bother at all Which if drying out or in a couple of feet you will be out of harms way anyway. Im of the thought that its in your own interest to let other vessels know what your actions are. Motoring cones are even more scarce. I rarely see them raised in my local river.