How to Tie a Bowline Knot

Learn These Straightforward Steps on How to Tie a Bowline Knot

Bowline knots are versatile and very secure. They're also easy to tie. This article takes you through the steps of tying this knot.
ThrillSpire Staff
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
Popular for its security, the bowline knot has a variety of uses. This knot is easy to tie and untie, and has been used since ancient times to form a secure loop at the end of the rope for varied purposes. Although it is considered to be a safe knot, sometimes it tends to get loose and also takes up a lot of the rope in capsizing.

To overcome these problems, there are different secure variations that have been developed over time. For example, 'bowline on a bight' is one of the types that forms fixed-size loops that are more secure and are very unlikely to loosen up, and therefore it's one of the best choices for tying up a climbing harness, say for rock climbing. The other choice is the figure-8 knot.

Referred to as the 'King of the Knots', this is one of the four maritime knots. The other knots include: the figure-8, the clove hitch, and the reef. The bowline resembles the sheet bend, the only difference being that it is tied using a single rope whereas the sheet bend uses two ropes to join and form a knot.

Method of Tying

Step 1: Hold the short end of the rope in one hand, form a little loop (often known as the rabbit hole) by crossing the short end over the long end.

Step 2: Take the long end of the rope out through the loop.

Step 3: Pass the short end of the rope behind the long end, forming a loop, and insert the short end into that loop.

Step 4: Finally, tighten the knot by pulling both ends of the rope in the opposite directions.

Uses

This knot could be used in a variety of ways. Its traditional use is in sailing small crafts and tying a jib sheet to the clew of a jib, or fastening a halyard to the head of the sail. It also is quite useful while camping. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration has recommended the bowline to tie down a light aircraft. It would be particularly useful to those who indulge in adventure or extreme sports.

There are other variations of this knot that include:
  • Water bowline
  • Double bowline
  • Yosemite bowline
  • French bowline
Try to tie one around your waist for practice, and you'll master the art of tying a bowline anywhere. An easy way to remember is:

"Lay the bight to make a hole
Then under the back and around the pole
Over the top and through the eye
Clinch it tight and let it lie"
Nautical rope knots
nautical knot