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Shipcraft: Line Handling

The Half Moon is a sailing vessel rigged with nearly three miles of line, and each line has a specific purpose. (All ropes on board sailing vessels are called "lines" once assigned a specific function.) Thus, line handling is one of the most basic, and most crucial, skills any sailor can learn (thus the saying, "learning the ropes").

Operating the ship's lines can be extremely complex, but it begins with a simple step: Students first learn how to belay (secure) lines on the pin rail (as Johanan is doing here) or a mast cleat.

Mouse over to coil the clew!
Mae coils a line on the weather deck.

Students then learn how to properly coil lines to keep them tidy. We aren't just being neat; when we handle the sails, so many lines are in use at once that if the crew doesn't work to keep them organized, the lines can rapidly turn into an unworkable tangle.


Students also learn a few basic knots, such as the square knot, the half hitch, and the bowline. Students can then use these combined skills as a foundation to master more advanced tasks, such as handling the sails or the art of marlinspike.

Mouse over to tie a bowline one-handed!
Ms. Niehaus ties a one-handed bowline.

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