The first watercraft were probably rafts made from fallen logs tied together with primitive rope and knots.

This early quote in the United States Power Squadrons’ (USPS) new book on marlinespike seamanship makes it clear that the unspoken foundation of sailing is rope, the control of which is bought and paid for with knots. As a non-profit educational organization with 92 years of experience and the stated mission of making boating safer and more enjoyable, the USPS seems the perfect organization to develop a book focused on knots and rope work specifically for sailors.

With sheets, lines, halyards, painters, bell and bucket ropes everywhere, there are countless ways ropes and knots are used aboard any vessel. This new book covers them all, if not specifically by name, most certainly by application. Designed for anyone who needs to practice their knot work with a constant eye on the diagrams, the publisher has thoughtfully given the book a spiral binding so it will lie flat. The drawings are generous in size, and clearly marked, with each knot broken down into manageable components.

It is, in fact, the discussion of these components that is the book’s greatest asset. By providing a clear understanding of bitter ends, working ends, bights, turns, and loops, the reader walks away with the building blocks and understanding necessary to not only reproduce any knot, but to understand why it is a good fit for a particular application.

With constant references to the onboard, dockside, or safety applications of every knot, the book carefully shows how each knot, from the practical to the merely decorative, can be realistically applied to the reader’s own needs. The section on splicing/rope repair, often given short shrift in other books, is presented in a manner that highlights the importance of proper line maintenance and repair. Finally, the section on decorative knot work offers sound advice for tidying up your lines and generally putting your boat in Bristol condition.

Whether you are a novice sailor, or an old salt looking for a few new tricks, Knots, Bends and Hitches for Mariners is a great way to develop and improve your understanding of how knots and ropes work on your boat. The clear and concise diagrams make it easy to use and maintain the gear you’ve already got in ways that will keep you safe and save you time and money down the road.

Knots, Bends and Hitches for Mariners by United States Power Squadrons (International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2006; 160 pages)