July 22, 2024
The Bowline Knot – History, Tying, And Uses For the King of Knots

The Bowline is a knot that creates a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It is one of the most well known and important knots used in boating and sailing and is often called the King of Knots due to its versatility, strength, and stability. It is easy to learn, quickly made, and easy to untie after being placed under heavy strain. In fact, the ability to untie the knot after being under high strain and subjected to harsh conditions is what makes it a fantastic knot for running rigging.

History: The Bowline was used on tall ships during the “Age of Sail” to attach a square sail to the yardarm. Another spelling for the Bowline is “Bow Line” because it may have been used to hold the windward, bow facing, side of the sail. The Bowline was first mentioned in 1627 by John Smith in A Seaman’s Grammar under the name “Boling Knot”. The Bowline may have been around much longer than the Age of Sail and even existed in ancient Egypt. A knot similar to the Bowline was found when Egyptian ships were excavated and the rigging was examined.

How to Make a Bowline: The method for making a Bowline is easy to remember by using the mnemonic “A rabbit comes out of the hole, around the tree, and back into the hole”.

1- Create an underhand bight in the line leaving a generous amount for the working end
2- Bring the end up through the loop created by the bight
3- Behind and around the standing part of the line
4- Then back down through the loop
5- Tighten the knot by pulling on the end, standing part, and loop

Uses: The Bowline is a versatile knot and can be used for a number of tasks including:

1- Attaching a jib sheet at the clew. (This is the place you will usually find a Bowline on a sailboat.)
2- As the knot on the end of a halyard to hoist an object or sail as needed.
3- Creatively as a slip knot; since the loop at the end of the line is fixed.
4- As a Bend to tie two lines together with each line using a Bowline at the end. 5- To create a loop at the end of a docking line.

Bowline Variations: The Bowline has a number of variations that work well in different scenarios, but maintain the original Bowline structure. One variation is the Running Bowline, which is basically a slip knot created by passing the standing part of the rope through the fixed Bowline loop. The result is a slip knot that can be used to retrieve items when they fall overboard, hold items tightly together, or used in running rigging. A second variation is a Bowline on Bight, which creates two fixed loops at the end of the rope. The two knots can be separated and used to lift people out of the water by placing a leg in each loop.

If you only want to learn a few knots, then the Bowline is one that should make your short list. Its versatility, dependability, and the fact it is easy to make (and untie) demonstrates why it has earned the title “King of Knots”.