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Sheet Bend

January 31, 2011

Just as we are firm believers in using the right tool for the job, we also strive to use the right knot (or in this case, a bend) for the job. Many sailors are unfortunately under the impression that the bowline is the best (or sometimes the only) knot for all purposes. We have seen bowlines used in places that make us cringe and boats sink.

In 2008 when Omar hit St. Croix, several boats in the harbor were lost. Whether anchored, moored, or tied to a dock, the most common failure was chafed lines. When tying lines together never use bowlines; they are very prone to chafe. Instead, a sheet bend (preferably a double sheet bend with seized tails) is less likely to fail due to chafe.

We have frequently needed to secure lines together in order to have the length necessary to tie to the trees during hurricane preparations, make a tow line long enough for David to tow Eurisko with Eureka, and extend our tertiary anchor rode. The best knot for this purpose is not a knot at all but rather a bend, a sheet bend. During hurricane preparations we also seize the ends with constrictor knots.

To form a sheet bend, hold the bitter end of one line in your left hand to form a horizontal eye, unless there is already one spliced in the line. In order to lessen the likelihood of the bend slipping, it is important to put the bitter end of the left-hand line away from you. The other way creates a "left-handed" or "backwards" sheet bend. If one line is thicker than the other, use the heavier line in your left hand, the lighter line to tie the bend.


Bring the bitter end up through the loop.

With the bitter end of the other line in your right hand, pass it up through the eye, away from you over the far half of the eye and under the entire eye.


Pass it under both parts of the other line.

Now pass the bitter end up between the right-hand line and the eye. It helps to start on the left part of the eye in order to have room to form the rest of the bend.


Pass the bitter end between the two lines.

Tighten by pulling on both lines.


Tighten.

If you want to form a double sheet bend, before you tighten the bend, pass the right hand bitter end over the far half of the eye again, then toward you under the entire eye and between the top of the eye and the same line you went under before, the standing end of the right-hand line. Basically, you are repeating the second step.


For a double sheet bend, pass the bitter end around,
under and through a second time.

Tighten.

When in hurricane situations, we seize the tails with light line or wax thread.


Constrictor knot the ends for hurricane line-lengthening.

Just like anything worth doing, it may take some practice. The next time you grab a line and start to tie a bowline, ask yourself if that's really the right knot for the job.

MONDAY, I can keep my opinion to myself no longer about a dangerous yet prevalent practice that makes sitting at anchor more dangerous than an ocean passage: boarding your boat at the transom.

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