The Bowline Knot
How to Tie It & When to Use It

The bowline knot - pronounced 'bo-lin' - is probably the best known and most frequently used knot for forming a loop in the end of a line, or to attach an object to the end of a line.

The Bowline Knot on Pinterest

It's used almost exclusively when attaching a sheet to the clew of a headsail. Underload, the bowline a reliable knot.

Nevertheless it's easy to undo, and therein lies its weakness because; if the headsail is allowed to flog the bowline can shake itself loose and detach itself from the sail.

If this happens with a high-cut jib the clew will be out of reach - you'll have to drop the sail to re-attach the sheet, which is less than ideal in anything of a blow!

In this situation the 'Lightning' method of forming a bowline knot is the way to go.

Like all knots, the bowline will reduce the breaking strain of the line in which it's tied. In the case of the bowline the average loss of strength is around 35% in a braided polyester rope, and considerably more in a Dyneema line.

The Double Bowline is a stronger version of the Bowline Knot.

See also the Bowline on a Bight, a two-loop rescue knot for a man overboard.

How to Tie the Bowline Knot 

How to tie the bowline knot - Stage 1

Stage 1

Make a loop as shown. Note that working end of the line passes under the standing part at the bottom of the loop.

How to tie the bowline knot - Stage 2

Stage 2

Tuck the working end through the loop from front to back.

How to tie the bowline knot - Stage 3

Stage 3

Bring the working end over the standing part, then tuck it through the loop from back to front.

How to tie the bowline knot - Stage 4

Stage 4

Cinch up the knot by holding the working end and newly formed loop and pulling on the standing part - and you have your bowline!


How to Tie the Double Bowline Knot

The Double Bowline knot is more frequently used by climbers than sailors, but it is undoubtably a stronger version of the standard bowline and is therefore worthy of inclusion here. 

How to Tie the Double Bowline (Stage 1)

Stage 1

Make a loop as shown. Note that working end of the line passes under the standing part at the bottom of the loop.

How to Tie the Double Bowline (Stage 2)

Stage 2

Now make a second identical loop beneath the first one.

How to Tie the Double Bowline (Stage 3)

Stage 3

Tuck the working end through both loops from front to back.

How to Tie the Double Bowline (Stage 4)

Stage 4

Bring the working end over the standing part.

How to Tie the Double Bowline (Stage 5)

Stage 5

Now tuck the working end through the loop from back to front.

How to Tie the Double Bowline (Stage 6)

Stage 6

Cinch the knot up tight. You have now tied a Double Bowline!


How to Tie the Bowline Knot - The Quick & Easy 'Lightning' Method

With practice, the 'Lightning' method can produce a bowline knot in seconds.

It's very useful when re-attaching an errant sheet to a headsail, as the bulk of the bowline can be tied before having to wrestle with the sail.

How to Tie the Bowline Knot - The Quick & Easy 'Lightning' Method, Stage 1

Stage 1

Make a loop as shown. Note that working end of the line passes under the standing part at the bottom of the loop.


How to Tie the Bowline Knot - The Quick & Easy 'Lightning' Method, Stage 2

Stage 2

Insert a bight from the working end of the line through the loop from front to back, forming a slip knot.

How to Tie the Bowline Knot - The Quick & Easy 'Lightning' Method, Stage 3

Stage 3

Tuck the working end through the bight where it emerges from the loop.

How to Tie the Bowline Knot - The Quick & Easy 'Lightning' Method, Stage 4

Stage 4

Holding the working end and the standind part together, pull on the lower part of the loop. The slip knot will collapse forming a bowline - magic!


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