Fast, Fancy Way to Tie a Bowline Knot

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Step 1

Fancy Bowline 1
© Tom Lochhaas.

Here's an alternative way to tie what ends up a traditional bowline knot - but tied in a way that feels and looks very different. In fact, the first few times you do it this way, you don't think you'll end up with a bowline at all, but some sort of slip knot.

If you've never tied a bowline, try the traditional way first. Then learn this "fancy" way to do it and wow your friends. It almost looks like sleight of hand!

It's easiest to learn this knot with the line on a tabletop as shown in these photos. Once you have it down, you can perform it easily in the air. Start with the loose end draped over the top of your left wrist as shown, with the end pointing away the direction your fingers point.

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Step 2

Fancy Bowline 2
© Tom Lochhaas.

Turn your hand at the wrist, palm still down, counterclockwise over the line. Both sections of line are now on your palm side.

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Step 3

Fancy Bowline 3
© Tom Lochhaas.

With your thumb hook under the loose end of the line to raise it so your fingers can pass beneath it.

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Step 4

Fancy Bowline 4
© Tom Lochhaas.

Curl your fingers around the standing part of the line and grasp it.

Be sure you don't accidentally take hold of the loose end section of line.

Before going on to the next photo, take note of how the loop is formed around your wrist.

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Step 5

Fancy Bowline 5
© Tom Lochhaas.

With your fingers still grasping the standing line, pull your hand back out of the loop that was around your wrist, as shown.

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Step 6

Fancy Bowline 6
© Tom Lochhaas.

You have now created a new loop immediately beside the index finger of your left hand. With your right hand, pass the free end of the line down through this loop.

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Step 7

Fancy Bowline 7
© Tom Lochhaas.

Here's what it looks like as you pull the free end through the loop created in the previous step.

Note: do not pull the free end very far through this loop. The larger loop to the left needs to remain - this will be the loop of the final bowline.

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Step 8

Fancy Bowline 8
© Tom Lochhaas.

This photo shows the knot after the completion of the previous step. The only difference here is that the bottom of the knot has been flipped up to show a different view.

All that is left now is to pull the knot tight.

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Step 9

Fancy Bowline 9
© Tom Lochhaas.

Here is the bowline pulled tight.

Turn it every which way and inspect the knot - you'll see it sends up exactly like a traditional bowline, even though the process itself feels very different.

With a little practice, you'll be able to be able to quickly snap your wrist through that first loop (photos 4 and 5) so quickly your observers will have little idea what you're doing. And when you slip the free end through that loop (photo 7), they may think you've simply created a slip knot that won't hold. People are often surprised to see it magically become a bowline!

Here are some other important sailing knots to learn: