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It's Knot So Hard With Tom Cunliffe


Renowned British yachting journalist, Tom Cunliffe reflects on his experience as a sailor and the influential mentors that guided him through the interesting, yet sometimes daunting world of knots and splices.

 “Sailing the oceans as I have done, you learn a lot by just keeping quiet, listening and watching, but as I look back in time, three great seamen stand out in my memory. There was the captain of a coaster on which I served as mate. He taught me how to secure any vessel under a few thousand tons alongside with minimum fuss and maximum flexibility.

The skipper of a Yankee schooner showed me how coil, stow, knot, make fast on cleats, heave a line and just about everything else in the world of yacht deck work. And to top it off, that great rigger, the late Peter Martin, formalised my otherwise self-taught splicing and whipping. It's been a privilege to have such instructors, but guys with their background are getting hard to find.

As a Yachtmaster examiner, I can tell a great deal about candidates from the way they stow their mainsheets. They get top marks if it's a work of art. Rope is the main tool of our trade as sailors. Handling it should be a pleasure and a source of pride.”

It is quite easy to get yourself in knots over the various types, but with Tom’s handy video, broken down into bite-sized chunks with individual knots and splices, you too can secure your vessel with minimum fuss and maximum flexibility.

Tom's step by step video includes: 

  • Types of modern rope
  • Securing alongside
  • Every knot you need daily on the water
  • And some you'll only want when nothing else will do, from a blood knot to a highwayman's hitch
  • Splicing three-strand rope and braidline

“I hope it'll help you as much as an old shipmate, who was an ex-RN Petty Officer, helped me back in 1969 when I was trying to tie a bowline, the ultimate knot, like a rabbit through a hole. I was under pressure and it just didn't work. He rattled it in so fast I couldn't see his hands move. Later, he showed me how to do it. I had to buy him a pint which, in today's money, is not a lot less than you'll part with for the whole video. Enjoy!”