Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Figure 8 Knot

I mis-spoke yesterday when I said that today's item on the list of Top Five Best Sailing Innovations Ever would be even bigger than White Marine-Tex Handles Like Putty Hardens Like Steel Sands Like Wood.

When I said "bigger" I actually meant "smaller". But it is more huger in its contribution to the global sum of sailing happiness, and much more massiver in its sheer innovativeness.

Yes, number 4 on the All Time List Of Best Sailing Innovations Ever is... the figure 8 knot.

There she is. Ain't she lovely.

With all due respect to Adam Turinas and his rather creepy obsession with bunnies and The Bowline, there is surely no question that the the figure 8 knot is
la creme de la creme of nautical knottery, the je ne sais quoi of sailing knots, the essential embodiment of marine entanglement par excellence...

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. The figure 8 knot.

It's a stopper knot. It stops a line from sliding through something you don't want it to slide through. For example here are a few uses of the figure 8 knot that will be familiar to fellow Laserites...

  • In the good old days of Lasering, before all this new-fangled rigging was introduced, the only thing that prevented the mast and rig from falling out of the hull when the boat capsized and turtled was a figure 8 knot in the cunningham line. Pretty important knot, wouldn't you say?

  • There is nothing more pathetic than the sight of a Laser sailor whose mainsheet has come unattached from the boom or the ratchet block in the middle of a race. Figure 8 knots prevent this unhappy situation. I always tie two in the end of the sheet that goes through the block because my mainsheet is quite smart and is quite capable of undoing one figure 8 knot if I don't speak to it sternly.

  • I have written at length here previously about all the problems I create for myself at windward mark roundings. One thing I don't have to worry about though is setting the sail controls right for the downwind leg. I just tie... you guessed it... figure 8 knots in my control lines for the outhaul and vang at my desired downwind settings for the day and then I can just release the lines from their cleats and they magically go to the correct positions. How cool is that?

  • I do have some other uses for the figure 8 knot on my Laser but they are secret and I'd have to drown you if I told you about them.

  • One other use for the figure 8 knot... if you happen to be a sailing instructor who needs to fill in 5 or 10 minutes at the end of the day with a bunch of rambunctious junior sailors, set them a competition to see how many figure 8 knots they can tie in a piece of thin line about 3 feet long. Keeps 'em happy until their mummies and daddies come to take them home to bed 'cos they're tired little teddy bears.
So what do you think? Do you have any equally earth-shattering uses of the figure 8 knot to share with the world?

By the way, in case you hadn't realized, this post is an entry in a group writing project on Best Sailing Innovation Ever. You too can enter. Full details are at Best Sailing Innovation Ever. Browse the entries so far at Spinach? and More Innovations. Then tell us about what you think is the Best Sailing Innovation Ever.

Tomorrow I will reveal to the world (or more specifically all three of my regular readers) the startling invention that is #3 on my list of All Time Best Sailing Innovations Ever. It's a truly amazing gizmo. It has fundamentally changed my life.


Ordinary Bob said...

The barrel knot is much better.

Anonymous said...

Figure-8 follow through handy too.

PeconicPuffin said...

I love the figure eight knot. Satisfying to use, to look at, to tie. And it works!

More importantly, my own sorry attempt at this writing thing will appear tomorrow AM on my blog

Anonymous said...

"Je ne sais quoi"?

Pretentious toi?

David said...

I'm going to have to go with Adam on this one and give a nod to the bowline. You know, the bowline shares all the goodness with the figure eight with an extra loop thrown in. If sailorkind had room for just one invented knot, we could all be using the bowline as a stopper, too, albeit with a superfluous loop in the end.

JP said...

Bowline creepy? Hmmm.... maybe Tillerman has a bunny-out-hole-round-tree phobia or something.

Anyhow to honour Number 4: "the figure of eight" I have just put one in the headphone lead of my computer

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