shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.


May 20, 2013

Sailors aren't the only ones who need and use knots. Power boaters use line, climbers stakes their lives on the security of the knots they tie, and truck drivers even have a hitch named after them. But until last week, I never would have guessed that a knot could help you babyproof your home.

While watching a video of our grandson scoot around on the floor, Dave and I noticed that the cord for the blinds was long enough to be dangerous.
"Message David that I said that's a good use for a sheepshank," Dave suggested.
"Do you think he'll remember a sheepshank?"
"Of course he will."
I was less confident than he, but David's reply settled the question.
"Oh good, I get to teach Hannah a sheepshank!"
Which left me having to admit that not only could I not remember how to tie one, but I couldn't even remember what they were used for. It seems the entire family was going to know how to tie one before I, so I disguised my ignorance by asking for a "refresher course" so that I could post it on the site. Here's what I learned.

The S-curve

A sheepshank is a way to temporarily shorten a line. For example, if you need the bitter ends closer to each other or if you need to shorten one bitter end after the other one is tied, as in the cord for the blinds. The line must be kept under tension or the sheepshank will loosen and possibly even untie itself. But in the example of the blinds, the little knob at the end will keep enough tension on the sheepshank to keep it together, since the cord is very light and gravity works.

Start by laying out the line, anywhere in the middle, in an S-curve that is big enough to shorten the line as much as you want.


At the end of the S-curve, form a loop so that the bitter end is UNDER the line that forms the beginning of the curve.

Pull curve UP through the loop

Place this loop OVER the curve of the S.

Do not tighten

Pull the curve UP through the loop you just formed. Do not tighten.

Repeat on the other end

Repeat with the other end of the S-curve.

Pull curve UP through loop

Pull the curve through the loop enough so that it will not pull out when you tighten the knot, but don't tighten yet.

Pull with equal pressure on both ends

Holding BOTH ends of the knot (on the bitter end side of the sheepshank), pull with equal pressure with both hands. This may require two people if you have a very large S-curve.


Tighten and you have a sheepshank.

Now the bitter ends of your line are closer, the one bitter end has been shortened, or your grandson won't be able to reach the cord for the blinds. For whatever purpose you may need a sheepshank, it is an easy way to temporarily shorten any line. And now even I can "remember" how to tie one.

A reader recently contacted us for some advice about designing her galley. MONDAY we'll share our thoughts and ideas.

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