How to tie a bowline knot

A bowline knot is one of the more useful knots that you can learn. It’s easy to tie, it doesn’t require any special tools or equipment, and it will keep your rope or line tight around whatever you’re tying down. Follow these steps below on how to tie a bowline knot!

Uses: The Bowline is a useful knot for making a secure loop in the end of a rope. It’s used to attach a mooring line to a ring or a post, among other things. It does not slip or get caught when under strain. It can be untied quickly without any load.

Two rope bowlines can be linked together to connect two ropes. Its major shortcoming is that it cannot be tied or untied while a weight is on the standing end. It should be avoided whenever a mooring line may have to be freed under strain, as it can jam or fail if stopper knots are not used carefully.

Comparison: The Bowline and the Water Bowline are linked here for easy comparison.

Name: The name Bowline derives from “bow line“. The Bow Line Knot secured the line holding the weather leech of a square sail forward to prevent it being taken aback.

Shakes Undone If Not Loaded: When a Bowline is unloaded, it can very readily work its way untied – I know, it has happened to me while swimming! Fortunately I only lost a scrubbing brush.

Pictures of Eskimo Bowline

Eskimo Bowline and Kalmyk Loop

Eskimo Bowline and Kalmyk Loop: This is an alternative method of creating a loop at the end of the rope. The knot is tied around part of the loop instead of around the Standing End. It is preferred when the loop will be stretched wide and is also claimed to better resist shaking loose. The same knot slipped (tied with a Bight) is known as a Kalmyk Loop – named after the Kalmyks, a Russian nomad group,

One Handed: The Bowline can be tied with one hand – useful if injured, essential if you are using the other hand to hold on to the line or the boat!

Length of Tail End: An intermittent load, e.g., on a mooring line, may cause many knots to slip or loosen. The Bowline is relatively tolerant of such stresses. Nevertheless some texts quote a rule of thumb which states that, for safety, the length of loose end should be 12 times the circumference. A half-inch diameter rope would require a tail more than eighteen inches long but this is rarely seen in practice.

Pictures of Bowline with Stopper to Line

Bowline with Stopper to Line

Pictures of Bowline with Stopper in Loop

Bowline with Stopper in Loop

Safety Knot: A Bowline should be used with great care when climbing. It is too easily tied incorrectly and can also shake loose. A Safety Knot is essential, e.g., a Double Overhand (Strangle Knot) can be tied around either the adjoining loop (left) or the standing end (right).

Yosemite Tie-off: A widely used alternative passes the tail around outside the loop and back under the collar to form a Yosemite Tie-off. Tighten the Bowline first and then tighten the Yosemite Tie-Off. Failure to do so can result in a slip knot.

Pictures of Bowline with Yosemite Tie Off

Bowline with Yosemite Tie Off

Error is possible: Whichever safety knot is used, it must be inspected and stress-tested – but not in the direction of fall!

Pictures of Left Handed Bowline

Left Handed Bowline

Left Handed Bowline: When tied as shown in the animation, the tail end lies in the middle of the loop. However, if the end is passed the opposite way round the standing end, it forms a “Left Handed” Bowline (ABOK # 1034 1/2, p 188).

The left handed version performs satisfactorily and withstands ring-tension (a distending force applied either side) better than the standard Bowline. However, the tail end is more likely to catch an adjacent rope or spar.

About Felix Oliver

My name is Felix. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving and kite-surfing! What can't you do in the water? I love to be outside all year round no matter what it's like on land so if there's any chance for me to get my feet wet or a board under them then count me easy as pie. So much that when I saw this website had just gone live about reviewing awesome bits of gear - well call your grandma because YOUR SON IS BACK IN TOWN BABY!!!

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