How to Tie a Bowline Knot or Rescue Knot Tutorial with Pictures
The Bowline, or Rescue, Knot
The bowline is one of the four essential maritime knots, and perhaps the most important. It allows you to create a secure, general-purpose loop at the end of a line. Frequently used to attach lines to sails and for fastening pennants, bowlines are also referred to as the 'rescue knot' because a person who falls overboard can tie a bowline around their waist and be pulled to safety. If someone falls in a hole, he or she can tie a bowline and sit in the loop as a makeshift chair.
How to tie a Bowline
Learning a knot from pictures alone is usually difficult, but the bowline is an easy knot to master. While bowlines are usually used to affix an item to the line, it is easiest to practice just with the line itself.
First, move several inches up the line, away from the tail end, and form a bight (also spelled bite), or small loop. For practice, leave about a foot of line below the loop. The loop should be to the right of the line, as shown in the picture.
Next, take the working end of the line and pass it through the bight, bringing it from back to front. Only bring a couple of inches through the loop, leaving the rest of the line free to form the knot's main loop.
Then, pass the working end behind the main line.
The last real step in forming the knot is passing the working end through the bight one more time. This time, bring the working end from front to back.
The final thing you need to do is grab on to the little tag of the working end, hold on to the main portion of the line and tug to tighten it down. As you can see, the knot to the right has not been tightened enough, but it is easier to see how the knot is formed. In real life, if you knot is this loose, you need to tighten it more.
How to Tie a Bowline
Why Learn how to Tie a Bowline?
If you are still unsure exactly how to form the bowline knot, watch the video above to see the process in action. The video also shows you how to easily crack the knot, or break it open, after it has been tightened down by use.
Knowing how to tie a bowline could literally save your life in an unexpected situation. It only takes a few minutes and a piece of rope (or cord, yarn, twine or anything else you can tie a knot in!) to learn - the next time you have a spare moment, give it a try.
Want to learn more knots?
- How to Tie a Sheet Bend Knot
This tutorial shows, in picture and a video, how to tie a sheet bend, one of the essential maritime knots. A sheet bend is useful for joining two lines, even of different diameters, and is more secure than a square knot.