Seamanship Skills

Three Easy Coils: How to Stow Lines Properly

Dockline coiled, hanging dockline

When lines are properly stowed, it makes decks and docks neater and safer.

“A good sailor hates loose gear, be it rope, boat hook or bobby pins,” wrote Hervey Garrett Smith, author of The Marlinspike Sailor. “He knows that at all times every item of gear not in actual use should be stowed away or secured.” In this article we’ll have a look at three different coils which will keep the lines aboard your vessel in Bristol fashion.

Basic Knot Knowledge

Before we begin, a couple of reminders: almost all three-strand rope is laid right-handed and therefore should always be coiled clockwise or it will eventually kink. (By right-handed we mean that if you hold the rope horizontally in front of you, the strands will be running from top left to bottom right.) It’s always a good idea to coil the rope into your left hand and, if one end is made fast, always start with that end and work the twists and kinks out to the free end. Secondly, if you are going to store dock lines and spare rope below, it is always a good idea to hang them up in an orderly fashion.

The simplest solution is to install a row of heavy-duty cup hooks in locker. Attach a short line to each hook with a clove hitch. A loop is put in at the other end (a bowline knot or eye splice) that is brought up through the coil when stowing and dropped over the hook. A far more attractive device—but a lot more work—is a toggle and becket secured to a bulkhead or shelf clamp through a wooden bracket as illustrated above. It can be made out of a short length of ¼” (6-mm) line spliced tightly around a grooved wooden toggle (often used for flags) at one end with an eye splice in the other end. The toggle is brought through the coil and inserted into the eye splice when stowing — easily undone and no knots to tie.

The Sea Gasket Coil

This is a coil that comes down to us from the age of sail and is particularly useful for line that must remain in place. It was the coil of choice for square-rig sailors who laid aloft to loosen a square topsail or topgallant and needed to tie the gaskets up in a seamanlike manner that was both secure and easily undone. It could work well for a dock line that needs to remain attached: just lead it up and over a lifeline so that the coil can be made up below. It will also work for loose line as long as the upper part of the coil is secured and the weight of the coil below keeps pressure on the fastened end.

how to tie a knot, tying a sea gasket coil

How to tie a sea gasket coil, tying knots for boats

Stowing Looped Coil

This is a favorite coil for loose line that needs to be stowed away.

Stowing a looped coil, towing docklines

storing looped docklines, stowing a looped coil

Stowing Hitched Coil

This is a secure method of preparing a coil for stowage.

storing a hitched oil, stowing a dockline, stowing a hitched coil

storing looped docklines, stowing a looped coil