In some regards sailors are quick to take on new technology (new materials, electronics
, even eventually new anchor
). In some areas though, we seem to be traditionalists, following methods a little blindly because "it is the way it has always been done". Tying some knots seems to fall firmly in the latter category (as does calculating Course to Steer
The knots we are currently tying have been in use at least a couple of hundred years and were design for lines of natural fibres that do not slip easily.
The better "new" knots that were first in use nearly a century ago have been largely ignored.
Why are we so slow to take on change?
It is not as if some of the currently taught knots are the best.
We seem reasonably OK with loops - the bowline is rightly beloved by most sailors. Hitches too are well covered - the classic ones such as the rolling, 'round turn and two half hitches', cleat and buntline are in widespread use and work well if used in the right circumstances (even the clove is handy for temporary light attachment). Stoppers too are good (figure 8, double overhand, or Ashley if an even bulkier one is needed).
Where I think we are currently poorly served with "traditional knots" is when it comes to bends (knots that join two lines together).
The Sheet bend slips under high load and can be shaken loose frightfully quickly.
The Double Sheet bend performs much better (almost as well as the Double Fisherman, particularly if the correct version of the two is used and it is dressed well). It too can shake loose quite easily though, so is a poor choice where load is applied and release and applied again, particularly in water
. Also in older stiffer line it is difficult to dress and if there is any substantial time between tying the bend and load being applied, it can loosen up enough that it simply slips under load. Disconcertingly, reports that it can occasionally slip completely (for no apparent reason) keep cropping up.
The Double Fisherman faces the problem that it cannot be undone when significant load has been applied.
The Carrick is a reasonable choice, but is slow to dress (can slip substantially undressed) and is not widely taught. It us also very easy to get wrong unless you practise it frequently.
There is not really a decent "traditional" one at all if the lines are of moderately different diameter.
So, if you had to pick just one versatile bend to ingrain in your muscle memory, what is the best bend to use?
A few criteria:
- Very secure
- Reasonably easy to tie and remember
- Can be tied in the dark
- Can be dressed super quickly (ie hand tightened snugly before load is applied)
- Will not shake loose easily before load is applied (or between loads)
- Can be undone
- Can be used for line of different diameter with no or little modification
- Added bonus: can be used to make a more secure end loop than the beloved bowline
From all the reading I have done recently in a knot
tying forum and climbers' forums
and generally on the internet
, I think the Zeppelin bend fits the bill beautifully.
StuM's constant plugging has not been misplaced
Up until just recently I had been put off by comments such as "risk of confusion and mistakes" (well, hey, you can say that about any knot
you have not learned to tie and practised!). Reading the above, I chose to use the Alpine Butterfly bend instead. The Zeppelin, however, is better again and there is no reason not to learn this valuable bend.
Later today I will post photos of the easy method I use. I'll give those of you who are interested a little time to learn it, then I will show you the minor variation that can be used to make it suitable for joining lines of different diameter.
For those who are keen on knots, final photos will be an alternative way of tying this bend, that also allows a strong end loop to be formed (superior to the bowline). I think it helps if you have good familiarity with the standard method first before attempting this.
I am currently playing with modifying the Zeppelin (to start with, apart from the already known double loops and tucks, a bend I have named the Water
Zeppelin) to see if it may be suitable for unsheathed Dyneema
. Estarzinger found that the ordinary Zeppelin slipped:
To wet your appetite, unveiling the near perfect bend any sailor worth his salt should consider learning to tie, the 'Zeppelin'. If you only learn to tie one bend, this should be it:
Originally Posted by estarzinger
In my testing the sheet bend slips (very roughly) 50% of the time in brand new dacron line and breaks at about 59% of the rated line strength (which is low among the various good dacron knots).
I just tested the Zeppelin bend, an equally easy knot to tie, and it did not slip and breaks at 69% of rated line strength. It seems a better choice for 'everyday' use. Note: it does slip in bare dyneema