Subscribe to our newsletter

How to Tie a Bowline Like a Pro

The rather erudite Chapman Piloting & Seamanship describes the bowline as the most-used knot onboard the typical recreational boat. So if that is the case—and it certainly is onboard my very own 32-foot Grand Banks trawler Betty Jane—you gotta wonder why it is that so few recreational boaters know how to quickly and efficiently tie this supremely practical bit of nautical grooviness and why Chapman doesn't properly illustrate the methodology involved.

Oh yeah. There are folks out there who can tie a bowline in the dark, or behind their backs, or under high-pressure situations when they've gotta be thinkin' about something else while they're manipulating the bitter end of  what's become a seemingly all-important length of three-strand nylon. But I gotta tell ya: they are few and far (like many nautical miles) between.

So, attached here, you will find a video (done a few years ago when I was one of  the senior editors at PMY) on how to correctly tie the knot. Please don't get offended if the old, rabbit-comes-out-of-a-hole technique gets short shrift from yours truly. 

I learned how to correctly tie a bowline from a bosun on the Roger Blough, a grand old ship that, as far as I know, still busies herself upon the Great Lakes today. The old guy guffawed at my rabbit-hole knot-tying methods (which I'd learned from a book, I guess), then by way of commentary tacked on several lines of the purple prose he was famous for, to the merriment of a mate, a few deckhands, and some other members of the crew.

"That what they teach you in them maritime academies, kid?" he growled just prior to initiating an on-deck course in practical (and I do mean:  practical) seamanship, with me as the only student. "Huh!"

No foolin'! The experience put me off books, at least as they apply to knots, bends, and hitches, for decades to follow. And, to this day, I don't even think about rabbits while tying this eminently efficacious knot. Too academic.