If someone asks you to tie up their boat, horse, or a rescue rope to a tree, you can luck into a solution. Follow the maxim: “if you don’t know a knot, tie a lot,” meaning weave a clump of smaller knots and it’ll probably hold. It might be impossible to untie, however—use a couple of half hitches to haul a car out of a snowbank and it’ll bind so tight you’ll have to cut the rope. Don’t want to look like a rook? Learn the bowline.
The bowline forms a fixed loop at the end of a rope, great for affixing a line to a sail—its original use—or for making a loop around a person to haul him to safety. The beauty of the knot is that it tightens under pressure, like when a horse pulls against it, but is still easy to untie afterwards. The thing about the bowline: it takes practice. Click on the video icon above to learn how to tie the knot. After you master it, the figure eight, clove hitch, and square knot will all seem easy, which is good because you really should know them, too.