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The highly convenient clove hitch

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What is the issue?
Sailing is a world of knots, bends, hitches, loops etc. The bowline is the king of the multi-purpose knots, and the one to learn first. But although functional in almost every circumstance it can be cumbersome in many situations.

Why address this?
Once the bowline is securely under your belt there are a few knots that are worth learning next for optimised approaches to specific recurring tasks aboard.

How to address this?
Learn the clove hitch which is a very simple but highly useful knot aboard. The clove hitch comprises two successive half-hitches around an object. Along with the bowline and the sheet bend, the clove hitch is often considered one of the most important knots and is commonly referred to as a Double Hitch.

The Clove Hitch or Double Hitch
Drawing: Michael Harpur
The clove hitch was the most widely used and convenient knot we employed during our circumnavigation. We used it daily for tying off our wind scoop and awning to the guard rails. This knot is particularly useful where the length of the running end needs to be adjustable, since feeding in rope from either direction will loosen the knot to be tightened at a new position. This makes it a particularly excellent fender knot.

Although convenient, the clove hitch also comes with disadvantages. It is difficult to tie down tightly or when under a load, and with certain types of cord the clove hitch can slip when loaded or unroll when very lightly loaded. This can be mitigated however by adding an additional half hitch.

With smaller diameter cords, after being heavily weighted they may become difficult to untie, and with heavier lines the clove hitch tends to slip up to a point and then stop slipping. It is also best fixed to round objects and is unreliable when used on a square or rectangular post.

That said it is nevertheless a most useful knot that is very easy to learn and well worth acquiring the knack.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession

Tying a Clove Hitch with a Half Hitch

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