The Rope Locker


The Rope Locker
Sheet Bend
By David Seidman
Small Boat Journal #50 September 1986

A bend is a knot used to join two ends of line. And like love at first sight, our first instincts about the bend usually lead to disaster.

Given two lines to join, the uninitiated thinks of his shoe laces and ties a square knot. This knot is fine for a few very specific uses; but its tendency to come apart easily or break under strain will almost certainly
result in havoc or tragedy. There have probably been more lives lost from using a square knot as a bend than from any other knot. Keep square knots on your shoes and reef points, and away from everything else.

lf you have to remember only one bend, the easiest to tie, the strongest, and the most versatile is the sheet bend. Named for its use in attaching sheets to the clews of square sails (clews on old sails were in the form of eyesplices or "beckets," so the original name of the knot was the becket hitch), this bend has proven itself over the centuries as the all-purpose bend.

Method A (fast)

  • Notice the similarity between a bowline and a sheet bend. The bowline uses the sheet bend to form a loop by joining an end of line somewhere on the standing part of that line. lfyou can tie one, you've got both.
  • With your palm down, hold the end of one line between your fore and index fingers. Place your fingers over the standing part of the second line and grasp it with your thumb (Fig.1). Now twist your wrist so your palm faces up. This forms a bight in the second line called a "Cuckhold's Neck" (Fig. 2).

  • Pass the end of the first line around as shown (Fig. 3). Remember: when the end passes over one part, it must then pass under the next. Always alternate.
  • Once the knot is formed, snug it up before putting it into service.
  • To untie, push the loop back and forth to loosen it (Fig. 4).

Method B (for heavy lines)

This method is best for less flexible or heavier lines. Tying it this way also gives you a better insight into the internal workings of the knot.

Form a loop in one line and reeve the second line through and around it (Fig 5).

The double sheet bend gives extra security from slipping by taking turns of the second line around the loop (Fig. 6). The second line enters the loop from underneath, not from above, as in the First drawing. A proper knot can be formed this way as long as the second line exits the loop
on the loop's short ended side.

Method C (tricky)

This only works with light line.

In one line, create a noose with an overhand knot. Stick the end of the second line through the noose.

Pull the standing and working ends of the noose apart (Fig. 7). The noose will swallow the second line and create a sheet bend. It's a little awkward at first, but you'll get it after a few tries. Not really practical, but fun.

Remember! All bends should be considered temporary. For permanence, use splices.

David Seidman