Archive for the ‘Competent Crew’ Category

Learn the ropes & the knots

Posted: 1 March 2018 by Lou Barden in Competent Crew, Ropes & knots, Training


On any sailing yacht you will find many pieces of rope or string as seems to be the word used by some. However when you are on a boat there are various names for these bits of string which are neither of the above. Instead we refer to them as sheets, halyards or warps. Wow, lets make up a whole new vocabulary, however there are good reasons as the name delineates what these bits of rope actually do and as a result the material they should be made from.

A sheet – the rope attached to the clew of a sail or the boom to allow the sail to be controlled or trimmed

Sheets attached to clew


This picture shows two sheets attached to the clew of a headsail. The attachment knot should always be a bowline (explanation below). These sheets allow the headsail to be pulled across from one side of the boat to the other.



Main sheet



This picture shows the main sheet which is attached to the boom at the top. This main sheet runs through a number of blocks the mechanics of which take the weight out of the line and make it easy to control. The main sheet will control the position of the boom. Not all main sheets on yachts come down to a track in the cockpit, many cruising yachts have main sheets which sit on a track on the coach roof forward of the companionway. More confusing terms, check out our glossary of nautical terms.




A halyard – the rope used to hoist or lower sails be it a main sail, a headsail or a spinnaker. So the main halyard would hoist or lower the main sail and the headsail halyard would hoist or lower the headsail and so on.

A warp – a rope used for warping or mooring a vessel to a fixed stationary object ashore. Highlighted in pink below shows three of the four mooring lines which have been used to secure Nomad 1 to the Pontoon.


The Knots

So if you are doing your Competent Crew these knots may well be new to you, if you are doing your Day Skipper or above you will be able to tie most of these with your eyes shut and your hands behind your back !! The most important eight;

The Bowline


One of the most useful knots on a boat, you will be able to undo this knot no matter how much load is applied to it, it does need load. This knot is used to attach sheets to the headsail, reefing lines around the boom of a slab reefed mainsail and often as the preferred knot to attach a boat to a cleat on the pontoon.


The Figure of Eight

Figure of 8

This basic knot is used as a stopper knot to stop any lines running through gear we would not want the line to come through. It is not the only stopper knot available but probably the most simple. A word of warning, never put a stopper knot on a spinnaker line or cruising chute line.


The Sheet Bend



The sheet bend is used to join to pieces of line together if you need a longer line. The lines can be different in diameter and if this is the case the smaller diameter piece of line does the work.


The Double Sheet Bend



This is used for exactly the same thing as the knot above but is stronger due to the extra turn.



The Reef Knot

reef knot


This knot is primarily used for tidying up sails when they have been reefed, on a slab reef main sail. It can also be used for tying bundles of objects together.


The Rolling Hitch


The rolling hitch is perhaps another one of the most useful knots to master on a sailing yacht. This knot allows the load to be taken off a rope if for example there is a riding turn around a winch. This will slide in one direction and hold fast in the other.


The Clove Hitch

Clove hitch


The clove hitch is typically used to tie fenders onto the side of a boat to protect it against a pontoon or other boats. Some skippers prefer using the knot below, a round turn and two half hitches.

A Round Turn and Two Half Hitches



This knot is often used to attach fenders to a boat but can also be used for securing to cleats and bollards