Nautical Terminator – Hitch & Bend (Part 2)

Last time we spoke of the difference between a hitch and a bend according to the Ashley Book of Knots. According to Ashley, a hitch makes a rope fast to another object while a bend unites two ropes at the ends for the purpose of lengthening the rope. He adds the refinement that at certain times when two ropes are joined, the knot is still called a hitch because the rope being tied to is not “active” as it is in a bend.

            A couple of examples may serve to illustrate this “active” principle. Although many authorities do not bother with this subtlety, Ashley distinguishes the Sheet Bend we all know (ABOK#1431) from the Becket Hitch (ABOK#1900) which is exactly the same knot but made fast to an eye splice or the loop in a fishing leader instead of a bight in the second line. In the Becket Hitch the second rope is not “active” and becomes an “object” so the knot fits the definition of “hitch” in ABOK#12, justifying the difference in name.

            A Rolling Hitch (ABOK#1734) can be used to make a rope fast to a spar, and is the preferred knot when hoisting a roller furling extrusion up the forestay, so in these instances it fits the definition of a hitch. But of course we also use it to take the strain from a rope when the end of the second rope is not workable, as in the case of an anchor rode or a halyard with an override on a winch. In these cases, even though two lines are being “united,” we are not uniting them at the ends, and the rope we tie the rolling hitch to is not “active.” The result is that even in situations where two ropes are united using this knot, we call it a Rolling Hitch rather than a Rolling Bend.

            A tidy example that summarizes the difference between knot, hitch, and bend is the versatile Bowline. If it is just a loop tied in a rope we call it a Bowline Knot (ABOK#1010), neither a hitch nor a bend. Once we make a line fast to an object using a Bowline it becomes a Bowline Hitch (ABOK#1716). However, if we put the loop of one Bowline through the loop of another to join two ropes for the purpose of making a longer one, we have a Bowline Bend (ABOK#1455).

Bowline - Wikipedia
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