Quick and Easy Bowline Demostration:

You, too, can be an expert at tying bowlines. The following message was posted to the TrawlerWorld List by toni & bev froehling:

Subject: TWL: knots
From: CtJstr@aol.com
Date: Mon Jan 17 2000 - 02:42:51 EST

O.K...here's the easy bowline they tought in boyscouts many moons ago:

Go get a rope, or a line, or a fat string...something. Even practice with an
electric cord like I'm doing as I describe this.

Hold it in your left hand, and wrap it around your body, so it comes around
your back from left to right. Now you're holding the short end in your right
hand, the long end in your left, and its wrapped around your back... Got it?
O.K. Now take your right hand, and kind of hold the rope about 3-4 inches or
so from the end, so's the end is hanging off your finger tips and the long
part is kind of running down your palm.

Now put the rope in your right hand on top of the line that you're holding in
your left. Kind of cross it over and give it a twist down. The short end
will go down on the left side of the long end. As you complete the twist
with your right hand, leave a bit of slack in the long end on your left side,
and keep twisting until the short end loops down and comes back around near
your tummy and back over the top. If you've done it right, the rope in your
left hand will have kind of a "6" in it, and the little rope will be sticking
up through the hole in the six. If you're this far, and don't have a "6"
with the little rope coming through it, you're a bad boy and need
to start over. Keep messing with it..You'll eventually see how the little
flip over works. Once you've done it once, its kind of like sex...you won't
forget it. When you finally have it in the six, just wrap the short end
around the back side of the long end and back down through the six. You
know..."The little rabbit comes up out of his hole, around the tree, and back
down his little hole again.."

toni & bev froehling
35' Ponderosa
Boathoused on the Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma, WA

OK, here's my attempt to show photographically how it's done. Be sure to watch the thumbs on BOTH hands -- VERY important! Note that I open up my left hand to show you what the "six" looks like after it's formed -- this isn't done when you're actually tying the knot. Click below to run the slide show (as soon as the first photo appears -- be patient, that takes a minute or so to load all the "slides"). Enjoy!

The finished product!

Click here to run the slide show.

We'll have to save photos of the one-hand method for another day! However, Don Dodds posted this word description of the method on the TWL:

All of you who have Modern Seamanship the one hand bowline is explained on page 270, for those unfortunate not to have the book.

Assuming that you are right handed, grasp the line with the left hand about six feet from the free end; this will take all load off the last six feet of line. Pass the slack end around behind your body and grasp the line about six or eight inches from the end with the right hand palm up. Lay the right wrist across the top of the line between the body and the left hand. Leave a gap between the body and the wrist. The palm of the right hand is now down and the line forms a closed loop around the body.

Push the right hand down and curl it over and around the line so that the closed right hand is forced back to pass inside the loop next to the body. The palm is now up and a loop is formed around the wrist. Keep this loop loose. The end of the line in the right hand is now leading away from the body parallel with the line coming from the left hand. Pass the end of the line around behind the line coming from the left hand. Flip the end of the line towards the body with the fingers and catch it with the thumb. Change the grip on the end so that the right hand now only holds the very end of the line caught by the thumb. While holding tight to this end withdraw the right hand from the loop. A bowline has been tied around the body using only one hand. With a little practice this knot can be made in less than 5 seconds.

Don Dodds

Then Nick Morgan wrote the TWL to say:

For those of you who have This Old Boat by Don Casey, the one handed bowline is pictured and described at the very end of the book, the Epilogue in fact. He attributes it to someone who saw it in a Paul Newman movie.

FWIW, one of the summer nautical festivals (maybe St. Michaels, maybe Norfolk, I don't remember) has a bowline tying contest. To see it is worth the price of admission. Usually takes a couple seconds for the winner and they usually do it one-handed.

HYY, Galesville, MD

Finally, Todd wrote me to say:

I was watching the old movie "Never Give an Inch" with Paul Newman. He ties a one-handed bowline. I'm thinking about renting the movie just to watch that part again in slow motion!