Ropes And Knots Reference

Chapter 1: Introduction

During your time in the Pernese SeaCraft you will encounter a variety of uses for ropes and knots, ranging from everyday mundane usage, to potentially life saving proportions. The following chapters are intended to give a basic introduction to the SeaCraft Apprentice on the use of ropes and knots, as well as a variety of seafaring terms and specialities, including weather, sea life which you will encounter, and the vagaries of the oceans which you will one day sail.

Although this book is intended for the amateur crafter, it is also a useful reference book for the more advanced.

Chapter 2: Rope Creation

Here on Pern, rope can be made from a variety of natural materials, including manila, hemp, sisal, flax and cotton. However, because cotton is a rarity and is used mainly by the weavers for clothing, and sisal is expensive, the main fibres which the seacraft ropes are created from is manila.

Because manila fibres are of limited, as opposed to continuous, length they are known as 'staple' fibres, and in order for them to be formed into rope they have to be twisted tightly together to grip by friction. To make a right-laid rope, small bundles of these manila fibres are twisted together to make right-laid yarns; these should then be twisted together in the opposite direction to make left-hand strands, which in turn should be laid up to form right-laid rope. It is the alternate direction of the twists which holds the rope together and provides it with strength. The strongest of these ropes is one which has been laid with three strands of manila.

Chapter 3: Rope Maintenance

Rope is an expensive commodity and it's creation is time consuming, so, as all craft Masters will tell you, it should always be looked after well. You should avoid dragging it over sharp or rough edges, or over surfaces where particles of dirt and grit will penetrate the fibres. Rope should never be forced into sharp kinks.

When storing rope, it should always be coiled neatly, by making the loops of equal size and, as you add each new loop, put a half twist into it. This will ensure that the coil lies neatly without kinking, it also means that it will be immediately accessible and untangled when needed. Before rope is coiled, however, you should ensure that it is dry through to the center. If it has been in sea water it should be rinsed with fresh water upon arrival at the shore, so as to remove any deposits of salt.

Chapter 4: Selecting Knots

One of the main reasons for selecting one knot over another is the relative strength of the knots in relation to the task for which they are required. It is an important consideration for all seacrafters. Other characteristics, such as speed and ease of tying, bulk and reliability will also influence your choice. Whilst working on the rigging you will generally use knots that are bulky and that have several wrapping turns which are designed to absorb strains and to avoid weakening the rope unnecessarily. Knots must be checked regularly, especially if stiff rope is used, because it is more difficult to tie than more flexible line and the knots may be less secure. However, if you are on the deck and fishing, for instance, you will use much smaller barrel shaped knots, partly to improve your chances of a good catch, and partly to safeguard valuable tackle. Generally, you should untie knots as soon as possible after use. This will be easier if you choose a suitable knot in the first place. You should always remember that knots that disappear when they are slipped off their foundations are no less strong or secure that knots tied into rope.

Finally, remember that tying knots requires practice. You must be able to tie them quickly and easily when you are at sea and the only way to gain the necessary skill and confidence is to practise each knot over and over again until the steps become automatic and you do not need to think about them. It is a good idea to carry a small piece of rope with you at all times, and whenever an idle moment arrives, bring it out and practice tying! Who knows, one day the life of you and your companions could count on you tying a knot in the middle of a storm, where you will not have time to sit and think about which knot you need and how to tie it!

Chapter 5: Parts of a Rope
Every rope has a number of set names for each part, which should be learned before you continue.


1 = The STANDING END is a short region at the end of the standing part.
2 = The STANDING PART is the whole of the rest of the rope (ie-the part not used in tying the knot).
3 = The BIGHT is the region extending all the way from the standing end to the running end. Thus a knot which is tied 'in the bight' is one which is tied without the use of either end.
4 = A KNOT is anything deliberately tied in the rope.
5 = The WORKING END or RUNNING END of a rope is the part used in tying the knot.

Chapter 6: Stopper Knots

This group of knots is most often used to prevent the end of a length of rope from slipping through an eye or a hole. Stopper knots can also be used to bind the end of a line so that it will not unravel. At sea, they are frequently used to weight lines or on running rigging. Many SeaCrafters tend to use the figure-of-eight knot for general use and multiple overhand knots to weigh down or decorate the ends of ropes.

OVERHAND KNOT - This is the knot that forms the basis of most other knots. It is formed by taking the end of the rope across and around the rope itself, then passing it through the bight. It is sometimes tied in reef points on either side of the sail, or on foot ropes to give a grip. This however, is not widely used by SeaCrafters as it is difficult to untie when wet and if used on a large rope has a tendency to damage the fibres.
MULTIPLE OVERHAND KNOT - Sailors use this knot as a stopper, though it is also difficult to untie when wet. It is created by passing the rope around itself three times, then the running end is passed through the bight, creating two overhand knots in such close conjunction that they merge together, creating a heavy knot at the end of a line. When it is tied, you should keep the loop open and slack, then pull gently on each end of the line simultaneously, twisting the two ends in opposite directions as you do so.
HEAVING LINE KNOT - SeaCrafters find this knot useful when a heavy line is to be thrown ashore or aboard another boat. It is attatched to a heaving line - a lighter rope - which can be thrown ahead so that the heavier line can be pulled across the gap. Th knot is tied to the end of the lighter line to give it the necesary additional weight. It is tied by making a long loop in the bight, and passing the working end around the two parallel pieces of bight several times. The working end is then passed through the loop, and the standing end is pulled, leaving a long bight to the standing end, and about a finger length of working end visible, and no loop remains.
FIGURE-OF-EIGHT KNOT - This knot is made in the end of a line, by taking the end around the standing part, under its own part and through the bight. It is generally used in running rigging.

Chapter 7: Hitches

Hitches are knots that are used to secure a rope to a post, hook, ring, spar or rail or to another rope that plays no part in the actual tying. Hitches do not keep their shape on their own. Because they are often used by SeaCrafters for mooring, lashing and fastening, they must be able to withstand a great deal of strain.
HALF HITCH - The half hitch is among the most widely used of fastenings. It is not meant to take any strain but is rather used to complete and strengthen other knots, which may then be used for tying, hanging or hooking. It is created by passing the end of the rope over the standing part, through the bight and laying it up to the standing part.
MARLINE SPIKE HITCH - Used to get a strong grip for heavy hauling. Turn of a line taken around a marline spike which is then lifted and its tip slipped under the bight on the right of the standing part.
TIMBER HITCH - Means of fastening a rope end to any spar or timber head. The end is taken round the spar, under and over the standing part then passed several times around its own part.

Chapter 8: Loops

Loops are made to be dropped over an object, unlike hitches which are made directly round the object and follow its shape. They are knots formed by folding back the end of the rope into a loop and then fastening it to its standing part so that the knot is fixed and does not move.
BOWLINE - This is a simple, strong and stable knot. It is one of the best known and widely used knots in the SeaCraft and is generally tied to form a fixed loop at the end of a line or to attatch a rope to an object. At sea it is used for hoisting, joining and salvage work. Tie a bowline by forming a loop in the standing part, pass the working end up through the eye of the loop, around the back of the standing part and then down through the eye again. For safety's sake, finish the bowline off with a stopper knot to prevent it from turning into a slip knot.
BOWLINE ON A BIGHT - Two parallel rigid loops knotted on a bight. Sometimes used to lower an injured man from aloft. He is able to put one leg through each of the loops and hold on to the standing part.

Chapter 9: Bends

Bends are used to join the ends of two lengths of rope to form one longer piece. Ideally to ensure that the knot is secure, the two ropes that are joined should be of the same knid and have the same diameter. Unusually, however, the sheet bend is secure even when it is used to join ropes of different diameters.
REEF KNOT - Its proper use is to join the two ends of a rope when reefing a sail. It is made up of two half knots laid in opposite direction. If it is to be used to bear considerable weight, stopper knots should be tied in the short ends.
SHEET BEND - A general purpose bend in which a loop or bight is formed in one rope and the end of another passed through it, round both parts of the first rope and down through its own bight.
CARRICK BEND - This knot provides a quick means of joining two roes or hawsers to lie flat. With one rope end passed over its own part, the end of the other rope is passed through the bight and over the cross of the first rope. It is then brought back through the loop opposite the one on which the first end lays.

Chapter 10: Running Knots

Running knots are also known as slip knots or nooses. Their main characteristics are that they tighten around the objects on which they are tied, but slacken when the strain is reduced. This group of knots is divided into two kinds: those that are tied by passing a bight through a fixed loop at the end of a line and those that are formed from a closed bight knotted at the end of a line or along it.
RUNNING BOWLINE - This is probably the only running knot used by SeaCrafters. It is found on the running rigging, or it may be used to raise floating objects that have fallen overboard. The weight of the object around which it is fastened provides the tension needed to make the knot grip. It is tied in the end of a rope, around its own standing part, along which the bowline may slide

Chapter 11: Shortenings

As their name implies, these invaluable knots are used to shorten long lines. Short roes may be needed temporarily to haul a load, for example, and a shortened rope id always more secure than two cut lengths joined together with another knot. In any case, a longer rope may be needed at a leter date. Shortenings can also be used to take up weaker or damaged lengths of line so they are not subject to any strain. These knots are well worth mastering.

The sheepshank is a true SeaCrafters knot: it does not chafe, it unties easily and it has a good jamming action. It is an easily tied knot which holds under tension. The number of hitches can vary from three to five, and that number determines both the firmness of the grip and the length by which the rope is shortened. It is created i the following way: A prtion of rope is looped back on itself so that each loop end is taken around the standing part in a half hitch.

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