The other night I woke to my whimpering Lab with GI distress. After our two-block walk at 3am and the evacuation of a few unscoopable, ladle-worthy messes, I was unable to fall back asleep. My typical soporific substitute for the sheep census is reading, but for some reason I didn’t feel like picking up the novel on the nightstand. So I practiced tying knots instead. Duh.
Over years of climbing and fishing, I have mastered a modest repertoire of knots including the figure eight, bowline, prusik, square, clove hitch, girth hitch, double half-hitch, slip, Bachman, Kleimheist, ring bend, double fisherman’s, butterfly, clinch, double surgeon’s, non-slip Mono, Albright, blood, and perfection loop. I was sixteen when I learned my first real knot, appropriately enough on a sailing trip from New Rochelle to Martha’s Vineyard. John, my late brother-in-law, taught me to tie the bowline using the infamous pedagogical device of the bunny and the tree. I’d like more rabbits and shrubbery in knot instruction.
During my practice session, I clipped two strands of monofilament (10 lb. test) and made a blood knot, technically a bend as it’s used to join two sections of line together. Then I grabbed a length of perlon and some paracord and tied an Albright, another bend, useful when joining lines of varying diameter.
For those who read The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, you might recall the knotty references, a hero named Quoyle, and a citation from The Ashley Book of Knots as epigraph to each chapter. I don’t own a copy of Ashley’s 1944 treatise, an illustrated compendium of more than 3,900 knots from the purely practical to utterly fanciful, but I feel strongly compelled to purchase it. Within its pages lies the answer to niggling questions like which is the best knot for hitching your ruminative camel? (Answer: the Picket-Line Hitch) Clifford Ashely’s classic was written well before the rise of Spectra and Kevlar, so some of the information (and knots) may not translate to modern materials.
To be sure, practicing knotcraft is not a cure for acute insomnia. But practice (even at 3am) makes perfect, and the penalty for imperfection might be light in the case of a lost fish, but heavy in other situations. Just remember to remove the bits of rope and cord from your bedside as such items could send the wrong message to a mate, relative or house guest.