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Pocket Skills: Jill's Guide to Rope Throwing (WEB EXTRA)

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Throwing Rope 5

In addition to throwing long lines, a point made in the March 2013 issue of PassageMaker in Seamanship, there are a few additional suggestions that might help make a difference with someone’s line-tossing ability:

Prior to throwing a line, whether for the first try or a repeat, always take the time to coil the full length in one hand, then divide these coils between both hands, with as little tangling as possible. Throw the coils from the leading hand first, followed a fraction of a second later by letting go of the coils in the other hand, remembering to hold onto the end of the line.

Jill demonstrating her flawless rope-throwing abilities.

Jill demonstrating her flawless rope-throwing abilities.

To minimize a person’s tendency to shirk away from your line, aim to the immediate side of the person. If you must aim at the person, throw above their head, which will allow the line to fall on them—this being much less painful than getting hit in the face with all the coils.

Usually it is best to reserve belaying the line until after it is grabbed, has encircled the piling or has ensnared the cleat. Otherwise, the belay may shorten the length of available throwing line to the point where it won’t adequately reach its target.

  • For throwing, 1/2-inch-diameter line seems to be the best all-around size to throw, but 5/8-inch may be required for better carry.
  • Three-eighths-inch rope is usually too light for all but the shortest tosses and it can be too uncomfortable on the hands when the line comes under a load, such as when you are pulling the boat into a pier against wind or current.
  • If a little more weight is needed, say to give the line more carry, simply tie a knot, such as a rolling hitch, in the end of the line. If even more weight is needed, add more turns to the knot.

Once this simplest of line tossing is mastered, there are two other line throwing skills that, once learned, can be quite useful. One is the ability to throw a bight of the line over a piling, cleat or other object. This is done very much like throwing a line, only the coils of both hands are let go essentially simultaneously while the ends of the line are kept in hand.

The other is the ability to lasso something, such as a piling or cleat. This toss is made easier if the loop, relative to the item being lassoed, is on the large size, instead of being too small. This loop can be spliced in or made with a rolling hitch or other suitable knot.

As with a single line toss, success with these two other tosses is less elusive if, here, too, lines with plenty of length are used. To minimize frustration, don't expect perfection; just go for improvement.