Making and throwing a heaving line

2018-05-16T15:39:12+00:00 May 16th, 2018|Seamanship|0 Comments

Dan Houston shows how to use a heaving line – and relays how to make a Monkey’s Fist or a quick knot to go on the end of it

A typical heaving line is a line 50 to 100 feet long made of light rope – of 6 or 8mm diameter – that is used as a messenger between ships or between ship and quay to allow a heavier line then to be carried across.
One end is weighted with a monkey’s fist, tightly knotted, or a heaving line knot or even a small sandbag. The monkey’s fist sometimes contains a heavy object – a ball of lead has even been known, to carry the line further, but this can be extremely dangerous to those on the receiving end!
The other end is whipped and usually tied to a point on deck near the thrower; many throws are wasted through not doing this!
The thrower needs to stand, so on a yacht he might tie himself on. He carefully coils the line so there are no kinks and then parts the coil in two, with a third of it held in his throwing hand, so that the line will be carried out across the water to whoever is ready to receive it. With the monkey’s fist close to his own he holds the first coil ready to throw and the second coil in the open palm of his non-throwing hand. The coils should be arranged so that they leave his palm cleanly – dragged out by the flying end of the line. It’s unlikely that the thrower can throw this line 100ft but the extra length often proves very useful. Wetting the line first gives it slightly more weight.
Main picture: Arthur Briscoe’s sketch Throwing a Heaving Line shows
the almost languid energy of the experienced line thrower.

Making a Monkey’s Fist
(i) Stretch your fingers out and wind three turns around your hand. Remove the turns.
(ii) Pass a second set of three turns across and round the first three, in the direction indicated by the arrow.
(iii) Pass three more turns round and across the second three, but inside the first set and in the direction shown by the arrows; if the knot is correctly made the end will come out alongside the standing part.
(iv) To finish the knot smartly, work all the parts round until they are taut and splice the end back into the standing part. Alternatively, tie an overhand knot in the end and expend it by tucking it inside the monkey’s fist, then work all parts taut as before.

Heaving Line Knot
If you don’t have time to make a monkey’s fist, then this knot is quickly and easily made.
Form a loop about 5ft long at the end of the line.
 Working from about eight inches from the turn start frapping the end around both parts, and continue until a small section of loop is left.
Then pass the end through the small loop and haul on the standing part to jam it in place and make a tight bundle of rope.


From Classic Sailor No16 July 2017