More About the Bowline Knot
Although generally considered a reliable knot, its main deficiencies are a tendency to work loose when not under load, to slip when pulled sideways and the bight portion of the knot to capsize in certain circumstances. To address these shortcomings, a number of more secure variations of the bowline have been developed for use in safety-critical applications.
The History of the Bowline Knot
The bowline knot is thought to have been first mentioned in John Smith’s 1691 work A Sea Grammar under the name Boling knot. Smith considered the knot to be strong and secure, saying, “The Boling knot is also so firmly made and fastened by the bridles into the cringles of the sails, they will break, or the sail split before it will slip.”
Another possible finding was discovered on the rigging of the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu’s solar ship during an excavation in 1954.
Using the Bowline Knot
The bowline is commonly used in sailing small craft, for example to fasten a halyard to the head of a sail or to tie a jib sheet to a clew of a jib. The bowline is well known as a rescue knot for such purposes as rescuing people who might have fallen down a hole, or off a cliff onto a ledge. They would put it around themselves and sit on the loop. This makes it easy to heft them up away from danger. The Federal Aviation Administration recommends the bowline knot for tying down light aircraft.
A rope with a bowline retains approximately 2/3 of its strength, with variances depending upon the nature of the rope, as in practice the exact strength depends on a variety of factors.
Tying the Bowline Knot