Sunday, October 21, 2007

I Can Tie Knots With My Feet

Tillerwoman and I were having dinner one evening in Spain with one of the other sailors at the Laser Masters Worlds and his wife. The other sailor started telling Tillerwoman this long story about how good he was at tying knots with his feet. As his wife (also a sailor) and I listened and smiled he kept my darling wife rapt with the tale of how he is able to tie knots in his mainsheet with his feet while sailing up the beat so that when he reaches the windward mark there are so many knots in the sheet that it won't go through the ratchet block and he is unable to bear away.

Of course he was kidding. There's no need to tie knots with your feet. The gazillion meters of Laser mainsheet, sloshing around in the bottom of the cockpit in all that water from every nth wave coming over the bow, is quite capable of tying knots in itself without any human intervention. How does it do that? I mean, when I used to teach little kids in sailing classes how to tie knots it took them ages to master the art of tying knots that wouldn't come undone when you pull both ends of the rope. But a Laser mainsheet, supposedly an inanimate object, has the skills to tie itself into knots that can take almost half of a downwind leg for a knotmaster like myself to undo. It's a mystery.

But wait. Every problem is just an opportunity for some marketing guy to pitch a product that will solve the problem. I think Steve Cockerill was the first to sell a "non-tangle" Laser mainsheet. We all bought one. Ha ha. What fools we were. OK, I guess the Rooster mainsheet has a lower knot-tying intelligence than the sheets we used to use before it came along. But it quickly learned to tie itself into knots just like its predecessors. Ho hum.

The latest in anti-tangle knot-free technology is the Bzzz mainsheet from New England Ropes. I think the guys at New England Ropes may have discovered a line with an even lower knot-tying IQ than the Rooster line. But it's still pretty smart and can occasionally manage a double underhand truckers triple hitch without any help from my feet.

There must be a solution. Isn't there some way to dump the sheet in the cockpit when you sheet in so that it won't get tangled? Some Laser sailors like to keep all the sheet at the front of the cockpit. Others are back-endians. It's as pointless a distinction as that between the big-endians and little-endians in Gulliver's Travels, whose major political issue was whether soft-boiled eggs should be opened on the big side or the little side. I've tried both. The sheet wins every time.

So what am I to do? Is there a solution to this problem? Or is it like other unsolvable mysteries such as which came first the chicken or the egg or how does Donald Trump's hair stay in place? I surely hope not.

Help please.


Mal Kiely [Lancelots Pram] said...

I dont know an immediate answer. I'm one of those who ties the end of the main to the back of the hiking strap... so I can't throw the trailing end overboard to iron out the kinks [as I read somewhere]. My little Laser 'quirk' is to keep my sheet at the back of the cockpit - but on the starboard side! Why... I really don't know! There's no logical reason for it other than familiarity, probably. heh heh
Mal :)

EVK4 said...

one guy who sails with me can cleat a line with his "behind"....I think the technical term is a butt cleat. Maybe I'll do a video instruction on it some day, basically, you get the tail end of a line and sit on it. Works like a charm every time.

PeconicPuffin said...

I have become fairly competent at dropping components that really shouldn't be dropped (carbon fiber thingamajigs) and slowing their descent with my foot, catching them just before they hit hard. It's easier than bending over and laying something on the ground. Also I can pick up marbles with my toes.

Anonymous said...

i'm a frontender.....but i found the macrame' elf in my cockpit and i killed him....slowly, with great joy.....
trick is to flake out your sheet prior to getting to the weather mark, it isnt like the mark is sneeking up on you, so as you approach the top of the course, think about the rounding and make flaking out your sheet another item on the checklist, usually the first and done the furthert away from the mark, just semi pull it out and flake it in the cockpit in your preffered location, 9 times outta ten it'll work like a charm and when it doesn't, the know is minor at best.

Tillerman said...

Butt cleat?? Picking up marbles with your toes??? If there isn't a picture it didn't happen.

Inquiring minds demand to see photos of these superhuman feats on your blogs.

Tillerman said...

xxxmax tell me more. You might have the secret. How exactly do you flake the sheet? And what if it's already in a knot?

Carol Anne said...

I got Bzzz line for the mainsheet on my boat about a year ago, and when it was brand-new, it was a nightmare of kinks. It got much better with time, although it does still occasionally create the annoying tangle, usually when rounding a windward mark.

Something that worked for me ... start at the end of the mainsheet that's closer to the boom. Clasp the sheet with your right hand, with the boom end of the sheet to your left and the majority of the sheet, leading up to the loose end, to your right. Using your left hand, pull the sheet through your right hand, keeping your right hand tightly enough clenched to press kinks out of the rope. Repeat this task gazillions of times.

To keep the task from getting boring, it's good to find someone with whom to maintain a conversation. Or find a small child who thinks the whole thing is a lot of fun, especially if it means she gets to spend time with the world's greatest grandfather.

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