How to Tie a Bowline & Make Friends With a Rabbit

It took me six years to learn to tie a bowline — most of that time I was practicing knot avoidance!  But every time I “tied” a knot, I worried about whether it would hold or fall apart, leaving our dinghy adrift somewhere our of our range or our jibsail flapping in the breeze.  But knots are a part of life aboard a cruising boat.  And they really aren’t that difficult.  Despite what books will tell you, I tie two main knots and they’re good for almost all situations.

The main advantage of the bowline is that it will not jam under load and therefore is easy to untie.  Under a strain most knots get too tight to untie, but the bowline does not.  Finally after years of trying to untie the knots I tied that would NOT come untied (if they were good enough to hold through the strain), I decided I really needed to learn to tie a proper bowline (pronounced BO (long O) -lin).   After I practiced the rabbit going around the tree a few times, I got brave enough to try it in a situation where it was imperative it holds.  Voila, magic!  Since then I’ve wondered why in the world it took me YEARS to get brave enough to learn to tie this knot!  After all, I’m not afraid of rabbits…

The Rabbit Comes Out of The Hole Bowline

1.  Form a loop in your line.  Make sure the line in your left hand is on top.

2.  Grab the end of the line and put it from the bottom through the loop.  The rabbit comes out of it’s hole.

3.  Now the rabbit has to go around the tree.  The “tree” is the underneath line in your loop.  Here you see the rabbit coming out of it’s hole from underneath and going around the “tree” – the bottom line in the loop.

4.  Now that silly rabbit gets scared and goes back down in it’s hole, after it rounds the tree — loops out of the hole, around the bottom line and back down through the same hole.  Silly rabbit!

5.  Now if you pull on the end of the line you chased that rabbit around the tree with and the end of the loop you created, you’ll have a nice snug knot and a loop that can be used to tie the jib onto the jib lines, to tie a dinghy securely to a dock (if there are no cleats), to make a secure loop going around a piling at a dock, more applications than you can begin to imagine before you learned to tie that bowline!

These days I proudly whip off a bowline anytime the need arises and usually get comments from others – “I wish I could tie that knot, but it’s too hard”.   It was too hard for me for several years, before I was bored enough to sit down and start playing with a piece of line and figured it out!

To untie the bowline, just bend the top of the “rabbit hole” back and the knot will loosen to allow you to easily untie it!

Voila!   A bit of practice and the bowline will become a friend rather than a practice in knot avoidance!   🙂

Anyone else tie a bowline differently?  What do you use it for?  Leave a comment and share!  Cheers — Jan

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