Tuesday, 15 May 2012

It Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief

Discovered an old book of knots today in a thrift store. I didn’t expect to find anything new and actually I‘m of the opinion that there are probably only eight crucial knots that a sailor needs to know. The trick is to use them correctly.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to learn something interesting from the book which made the 50 pence I gave for it worthwhile.

So, here is the interesting snippet.

We all know the reef knot. It is the most well know sailor’s knot but frequently tied wrongly. Here’s how it should look. You’ll see it’s perfectly symmetrical. Both ends of the rope leave the knot at the top of the loop. You’ll know if you’ve got it right because it lays flat. There aren’t many uses for a reef knot other than the obvious one of tying in a reef on a sailing boat. It works best if it remains under tension. If it’s allowed to go slack or if it’s shaken too much it can unravel. These illustrations use different shades and types of rope for clarity but if you decide to use a reef knot for any reason, it’s only good for tying ropes of the same size and weave. Never use it for joining two mooring ropes or tow ropes together, its just not reliable enough.

Now here is the granny knot, usually tied as a reef knot by mistake. It’s a notorious knot which is good for nothing on a boat. It’s completely asymmetrical, it won’t lay flat like a correctly tied reef and it has the capacity both to jam and to shake itself loose – Avoid it like the plague.

So, what you may ask – where is the interesting bit promised above? 


Well. Take a look at this picture. It’s called a ‘thief’ knot. Sailors used to tie this around their personal lockers. At first glance, it looks like a reef – but note how the ends of the ropes exit – one at the top, one at the bottom. The theory was that any thief untying the knot to get into a locker would retie it as a reef or worse a granny, either way you’d know someone had been into your stuff! As the saying goes ‘It takes a thief to catch a thief’