March 2011

Mastering marlinespike

Monkey’s fist

When you need to heave a line more than 50 feet, a monkey’s fist will help. To tie this knot, start with 6 feet of 3/8-inch nylon rope.

Monkey's fist

A. Make four turns over two fingers spread far enough apart to allow the bitter end to pass between the fingers.

B. Make four more turns at right angles to the first set of turns, and gently pull the rope off your hand while holding the general shape.

Monkey's fist

C. Insert a 1-inch-diameter steel or lead ball in the loose knot.

D. Make another four turns around the second set of turns, each time bringing the bitter end inside the original set of turns.

E. Pull the knot tight, first slowly and lightly and then more tightly as you reach the last tucks. Use a padded vise for final cubical shaping.

F. End the knot by seizing or splicing the bitter ends together, or you can start the knot with a seized or spliced loop and hide it in the knot along with the metal ball.

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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