Towboat Hitch / Capstan Hitch – UPDATED

Towboat / Capstan Hitch tied on a sailboat winch

Towboat / Capstan Hitch tied on a sailboat winch

The Towboat Hitch or Capstan Hitch is a great knot or hitch to use when you need to tie a line to your winch or a post.  The Towboat Hitch or Capstan Hitch is quick and easy to tie, very secure, and can be released under load.

The Towboat / Capstan Hitch is great when you need to tie to a piling or similar object.

Winches on sailboats are usually very solidly mounted because of the high sheet loads, this makes them a nice attachment point when towing another boat, winches are also usually easier to reach than cleats.

The Towboat / Capstan Hitch is a well kept secret, I have demoed this for people who have sailed all their life and the look on their face is one of amazement.

I have updated the instructions with better pictures and instructions.

Practice this one a few times and amaze your friends and fellow boaters.

Read Towboat Hitch / Capstan Hitch – UPDATED

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Pelican Hooks

Pelican Hook for a Lifeline

Pelican Hook for a Lifeline

The simple Pelican Hook seems to befuddle many crew members (and a fair number of skippers also).   Here are some simple tips to take the mystery out of the Pelican Hook.

Improper operation of the Pelican Hook can damage the Pelican Hook or cause it to open up unexpectedly causing the gate of Lifeline to open up.  That can lead to crew members falling overboard if the lifeline is not secure.  Even if a crew member is just using the lifeline to help a bit with balance, suddenly having the lifeline go slack can be a very bad surprise and can lead to injury or crew going overboard.

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21st Century ATON’s & Waterway Safety

Virtual AIS ATON's

Virtual AIS Aids To Navigation (ATON’s) help protect the Bay Bridge in San Francisco

Tuesday June 3, 2014 I attended the Future of Navigation Listening Session in Seattle.

This was a chance for Puget Sound boaters to find out about recent Aids to Navigation changes and hear about changes on the way and for boaters to give feedback on their needs and concerns on the future of navigation.

I arrived way early for the session, that was a very good decision as LT R David Lewald, USCG introduced himself and we had a nice chat before the meeting started.  I expressed concerns I and my friends had as recreational boaters.  The concerns ranged from shifting to AIS (Automatic Identification System) based Virtual Aids to Navigation (ATON’s that are not physical but represented by an AIS signal (see below for more info)) to the changing of the physical ATON’s and a concern the physical ATON’s would be removed.  Mr Lewald indicated that the Coast Guard District 13 would be maintaining the current ATON’s, however he noted that change happens and vessel traffic changes over time and the ATON’s need to change to meet the changing needs.  He also said that the Coast Guard was adding new tools to help them better meet recreational boaters needs and the open Listening Sessions held at several cities are another attempt to get feedback from everyone that uses the waterways.

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Buntline Hitch


Buntline Hitch

The Buntline Hitch is a very secure, but little known knot.  It’s history goes back to the age of sail when a knot was needed that would stay tied to the foot of the sails on Square-Rigged Ships with the sail flogging or slatting, since the Buntline Hitch tends to tighten up rather than loosen up like many knots do in these conditions.

The Buntline Hitch was used to tie the foot of the sail to the buntlines.  The compact size of the Buntline Hitch allowed the sails to be trimmed tighter through the deadeyes.

Many riggers use the Buntline Hitch today as their preferred knot when going aloft as it is very secure and more compact than a Bowline, the compact size also the rigger be hoisted a bit higher up the mast, very nice for those times when working at the mast head.

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How are Your Boat Roping Skills?


The RNLI shows how to lasso a runaway boat.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) demonstrate their cowboy skills in this video with a lass rope to get a runaway boat under control.

In the Public Education Classes we make a big issue of why boaters should attach the kill switch lanyard to their person or lifejacket.  In this case the operator was preparing the boat for docking and slipped overboard bumping the throttle to full open when they went overboard.

The old saying of “One hand for you and one hand for the boat” is still good advice today, as is the advice to keep your weight low especially when moving around on small boats.

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Drowning Does Not Look Like Drowning

I found this article over on gCaptain, they published it in June of 2010 and they have republished it by popular demand every Labor Day Weekend since then.  A very enlightening article on why you will not recognize a drowning person.

By Mario Vittone

The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. “Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners.

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Making Pelican Hook Lanyards & Key Fobs

Pelican Hook Lanyards - Portuguese Sennit - shackel lanyard

DIY Pelican Hook Lanyards made using a Portuguese Sennit Knots

You can save money by making your own colorful Pelican Hook / Shackle Lanyards.  They are quick and easy to make and you can pick your own colors.

Key Fobs make great Christmas and Birthday gifts for your non sailing friends.

These lanyards can also be used on shackles, the lanyards can be sized to match the shackle, large enough to give a good grip, but not too large where the lanyard will get in the way.  Using bright colors make finding the release easier, the rough texture gives a good grip.  Making your own lanyards lets you color code the shackles if you want.

I have given many Key Fobs & Pelican Hook Lanyards to friends and others as gifts, since everyone seems to like different colors, I made a large assortment of many different colors and line types then let people choose their favorite color.

Red & Green Lanyards work nice when given as a set to sailboat owners.

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Repairing the Forward Hatch & Catch Blocks


Catch Block on the forward hatch before repairing

The Catch Blocks on the forward hatch needed repair after the Pop-Rivets came loose.

I thought about using Pop-Rivets like the original catch blocks were mounted with.  However getting the Pop-Rivets to seat in the counter bore looked to be a problem and I wanted a repair that I never needed to do again.

I decided to replace the 1/8 inch Pop-Rivets with 6-32 stainless steel machine screws.  The 6-32 screws just slipped into the existing rivet holes and the head of the screw fit into the countersink.  The length was just long enough to go through the frame and allow for a hex nut without protruding past the outside of the mounting frame.

The back of the Catch Block was roughed up with coarse sandpaper to remove the shiny finish to provide some “tooth” for the epoxy to grab onto.

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