TIE KNOTS THE FUN AND EASY WAY
Better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it.
Rolling Hitch and Midshipman's Hitch
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Animation: Rolling Hitch Tying
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Rolling Hitch TyingPass the end around the main (red) rope to make a Half Hitch. Continue around going over the first turn. Tuck the rope between the standing end and the first turn. Tighten to make it secure (this introduces a slight dog-leg in the main rope). Continue around to add a final Half Hitch.
Rolling Hitch and Midshipman's Hitch Details
Description: The Rolling Hitch Ashley Version 2 (ABOK # 1735, p 298) attaches a rope (usually smaller) to another (usually larger) when the line of pull is almost parallel. To attach a rope to a pole see Version 1 below.
Naming: Richard Dana published The Seaman's Friend in 1841 and applied the name Rolling Hitch as we use it today. Until then it was known as the Magnus Hitch or Magner's Hitch; and the name Rolling Hitch had been applied to the Round Turn and Two Half Hitches. Dana's nomenclature was adopted by subsequent authors including Ashley who applied the name Magnus Hitch to the variation of the Rolling Hitch in which the final half hitch us passed around the standing end in the reverse direction and "tends to obviate torsion or twisting" (ABOK # 1736, p 298).
Caution: Some modern ropes are very slippery, e.g., Spectra®, Dyneema®, and Polypropylene. A Rolling Hitch will not hold at all in such materials.
Critical Details: The animation correctly shows that the blue rope is parallel to the red. The "pull" MUST be in line with the main rope (or the pole). If the tension is away from the standing rope or pole, this knot is likely to fail.
Awning Hitch:The value of 'tucking in' turn two inside the first turn can be shown by tying the knot with and without this tuck. As soon as the 'tuck' is made the knot is stable as an "Awning Hitch" (, ABOK # 1798, p 304). Without this tucked turn, the first part of the knot has no 'structure' and the first two turns just slide along. The tucked turn forces a slight kink into the main rope which contributes to the secure grip.
Version 1: However, to secure a rope to a parallel pole, use Ashley's Version 1 (ABOK # 1734, p 298). There is no "tucked second turn". Both of the first two turns are just wound on tightly beside each other. Version 1 grips well on poles and bars but is less secure than Version 2 on rope.
Midshipman's, Taut-Line, and Rolling Hitches: A Midshipman's Hitch (ABOK # 1729, p 296) is created when a rope goes around an object and is then tied back to itself with a Rolling Hitch Version 2 – the version better for rope. This became known as a Taut-Line Hitch and was taught exactly this way in early versions of the Boy Scouts of America Handbooks. Unfortunately, a change was made and Version 1 was substituted – the version better for a pole. So now the "Taut-Line" Hitch being taught employs the less suitable version of the Rolling Hitch, the one better preferred for a pole.
Optimism: To end this confusion I live in hope that the Scouting organizations will abandon the Tautline Hitch and teach instead the better Midshipman's Hitch.
Recent Research: In August of 2009 Practical Sailor reported on their testing of slide and grip knots. Their analysis concluded: "... On more modern line, which tends to be much more slippery, the rolling hitch often slips under load. It may also fail to hold on wire or stainless-steel tubing...." After testing various knots, they recommended the Icicle Hitch as offering the best performance as a Slide and Grip Knot.
Uses: The Rolling Hitch is useful to take the strain off a rope with a foul turn on a winch. It can also make an adjustable loop in the end of a rope to act as a spring line to a dock. It can be used to relieve the strain on a hawser while the "Bitter End" is transferred to the "Bitts" but the Rat-Tail Stopper is better. When used to make a Midshipman's Hitch it forms an adjustable loop with many uses, e.g., on small sailing boats it is successfully used as a boom-vang and, at home, it makes an adjustable Clothesline Hitch.
Under Load: The Rolling Hitch is one of the few knots which can be tied and untied with load on. It does not bind and, when tied correctly, does not slip. However, in critical applications some authorities recommend using the tail end to tie a second Rolling Hitch to back up the first.
Safety Belt Hitch: Ashley also describes a Safety-Belt Hitch used by Steeplejacks (ABOK # 452, p 74), where three turns, not "tucked up", are used in the first part of the knot before the final Half Hitch is placed.
Overboard: The Rolling Hitch has been promoted as the only knot to tie in the following unlikely but critical circumstance: while sailing alone you fall overboard and catch hold of the line which you have prudently left trailing astern and find yourself hanging on with difficulty. Before you tire, you manage to bring the bitter end of the rope around your back. You then have to tie a suitable knot to make a loop around you. A bowline cannot be tied under load. Two Half Hitches will slide and constrict you. The Rolling Hitch is the answer. Even as the second turn is tucked "up" into the correct place, the major strain is taken and the final Half Hitch can be tied with less urgency.
Variation Using a Bight: When there is a long tail end, the Rolling Hitch can be tied using a bight (loop) instead of the end. This is particularly useful when the Rolling Hitch is being used as a Spring Line. However, attention to detail is essential. The first part of the knot is tied using one strand of the loop. The other strand is kept out of the way but the bitter end is NOT pulled through. Once the first part of the knot is secure and, as usual, will take the strain, the bight can be used to tie one or more Half Hitches.
Disclaimer: Any activity that involves ropes is potentially hazardous. Lives may be at risk - possibly your own. Considerable attention and effort have been made to ensure that these descriptions are accurate. However, many critical factors cannot be controlled, including: the choice of materials; the age, size, and condition of ropes; and the accuracy with which these descriptions have been followed. No responsibility is accepted for incidents arising from the use of this material.