April 2010

Mastering marlinespike

Clove hitch (for tall piles)

A tenacious slip knot, the clove hitch is used to attach a line to a round pile.

When tied around a wooden pile, it won’t slip even if the pile is tapered. It’s also easy to tie and untie under a strain.

However, if the load moves back and forth, the knot will rotate, allowing the working part to pull out and the bitter end to be drawn in, untying the knot. You can prevent this by adding two half hitches with the bitter end around the working part.

Clove hitch step A.

Practice tying this knot around a vertical cylinder. Start with a bitter end long enough to wrap around the post twice with 2 feet of line left over for the half hitches. Wrap the bitter end around the post. When you come back to the working part, pass under it and immediately cross over the wrap you just made so the second wrap is on top of the first.

Clove hitch step B.

Make the second wrap in the same direction as the first. When you come to the crossing, pass the bitter end under and pull tight.

Clove Hitch step C.

On the back side of the knot, the two wraps should be parallel and tight. On the front side, the crossing should go from the bottom turn across both the bitter end and the working part to the top turn.

Next make a round turn with two half hitches with the remaining bitter end.

First pass the bitter end over and around the working part and back up and around the working part and between the bitter end and the clove hitch. Draw it tight. The bitter end should now be trapped between itself and the clove hitch. This is the first half hitch.

For the second half hitch, pass the bitter end over and around the working part in the same direction. When you come to the crossing, pass the bitter end under it and pull it tight. This is the second half hitch.

Continue building your marlinespike skills by taking the Knots, Bends and Hitches seminar. Find a seminar near you or purchase the USPS guide Knots, Bends and Hitches for Mariners. Call 888-367-8777 ext. 0 for more information.

Original materials used with thanks to Irene Rodriguez and John Bennett

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Mastering Marlinespike


Cleat hitch

Round turn with two half hitches

Clove hitch

Sheet bend

Figure eight

Anchor bend

Rolling hitch

Double sheet bend

Eye splice

Becket bend

Reef knot

Blood knot

True lover’s knot

Monkey’s fist

Carrick bend

Angler’s loop

Strangle knot

Jar sling

Japanese success knot

Spanish bowline

Stevedore knot

Heaving line knot

Three-part crown knot

Sack knot

Short splice

Constrictor knot

Slip knot

Japanese bowline

Hawser bend

Slipped bowline

Bowline on a bight

Lark’s head

Buntline hitch

Jury mast knot

Slipped buntline hitch

Painter’s bowline

Binder’s loop

Wall and crown knot

Inside cow hitch

Toggled reef knot

Long splice

Tugboat hitch

Crown sennit

Toggled lark’s head

Matthew Walker knot


Back splice

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