Marlinespike hitch

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Marlinespike hitch
NamesMarlinespike hitch, marlingspike hitch, boat knot
Category Hitch
RelatedOverhand slip knot, stein knot
Releasing Non-jamming
Typical usePulling heavily on rope or twine, historically used by sailors
CaveatIntended as temporary hitch; not stable unless loaded
ABoK #559, #1186, #1789, #1880, #2030, #7, #43

The marlinespike hitch is a temporary knot used to attach a rod to a rope in order to form a handle. [1] This allows more tension than could be produced comfortably by gripping the rope with the hands alone. It is useful when tightening knots and for other purposes in ropework.


As the name suggests, the type of rod traditionally used with this hitch is a marlinespike. The advantages of this hitch over others which might serve the purpose are its quickness of tying and ease of releasing. Topologically it is a form of the noose, but in practice this hitch is not allowed to collapse into that shape. When it does capsize into a traditional noose, it can jam against the rod, making it much more difficult to release. [2]

The hitch is frequently used by hammock campers to attach adjustable rope slings ("whoopie slings") to the webbing straps that are used to attach hammocks to trees.

By passing the working end through the marlinespike hitch, this knot can be used as an alternative method of tying the Bowline knot. Passing through in the opposite direction will give you the Cowboy bowline (also known as the left-hand bowline, Dutch marine bowline or winter bowline).

A constrictor knot prepared for tightening using two rods and marlinespike hitches Constrictor-knot-Marlinespike-hitches.jpg
A constrictor knot prepared for tightening using two rods and marlinespike hitches


Below is a basic method of tying. The knot can also be made by using the rod itself to form the loop, but the tying method does not affect the performance of the resulting hitch.

Begin with an overhand loop, that is, a loop in which the working part passes over the standing part:

Fold the loop over the working part, towards the standing part such that the standing part is visible through the center of the loop:
In stiffer material the first two steps can be accomplished in a single motion by twisting the working part with the fingers until a loop forms and flops over the standing part.

Use the rod to snag a bight of the standing part through the loop, that is, pass the rod over the near side of the loop, under the standing part and then over the far side of the loop:

Before tensioning, excess slack can be removed by pulling simultaneously on both the working and standing parts:
In actual use the hitch should be loaded only from the standing side.

Undesirable capsized form

If the working end is loaded rather than the standing part, the knot will capsize into an overhand noose:
While this form may still hold when the standing part is subsequently loaded, it can jam badly against the rod. This is especially troublesome if the rod is not tapered.

See also

Related Research Articles

Knot Method of fastening or securing linear material

A knot is an intentional complication in cordage which may be useful or decorative. Practical knots may be classified as hitches, bends, or splices: a hitch fastens a rope to another object; a bend unites two rope ends; and a splice is a multi-strand bend or loop. A knot may also refer, in the strictest sense, to a stopper or knob at the end of a rope to keep that end from slipping through a grommet or eye. Knots have excited interest since ancient times for their practical uses, as well as their topological intricacy, studied in the area of mathematics known as knot theory.

Bowline Simple knot used to form a fixed "eye" at the end of a rope

The bowline is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed "eye" at the end of a rope. It has the virtues of being both easy to tie and untie; most notably, it is easy to untie after being subjected to a load. The bowline is sometimes referred to as King of the knots because of its importance. Along with the sheet bend and the clove hitch, the bowline is often considered one of the most essential knots.

Overhand knot type of knot

The overhand knot, also known as a a knot and half knot, is one of the most fundamental knots, and it forms the basis of many others, including the simple noose, overhand loop, angler's loop, reef knot, fisherman's knot, and water knot. The overhand knot is a stopper, especially when used alone, and hence it is very secure, to the point of jamming badly. It should be used if the knot is intended to be permanent. It is often used to prevent the end of a rope from unraveling. An overhand knot becomes a trefoil knot, a true knot in the mathematical sense, by joining the ends.

Constrictor knot type of binding knot

The constrictor knot is one of the most effective binding knots. Simple and secure, it is a harsh knot that can be difficult or impossible to untie once tightened. It is made similarly to a clove hitch but with one end passed under the other, forming an overhand knot under a riding turn. The double constrictor knot is an even more robust variation that features two riding turns.

Sheepshank knot

A shank is a type of knot that is used to shorten a rope or take up slack, such as the sheepshank. The sheepshank knot is not stable. It will fall apart under too much load or too little load.

Clove hitch type of knot

The clove hitch is a type of knot. Along with the bowline and the sheet bend, it is often considered one of the most important knots. A clove hitch is two successive half-hitches around an object. It is most effectively used as a crossing knot. It can be used as a binding knot, but is not particularly secure in that role. A clove hitch made around the rope's own standing part is known as either two half-hitches or buntline hitch, depending on whether the turns of the clove hitch progress away from or towards the hitched object.

Although the name clove hitch is given by Falconer in his Dictionary of 1769, the knot is much older, having been tied in ratlines at least as early as the first quarter of the sixteenth century. This is shown in early sculpture and paintings. A round turn is taken with the ratline and then a hitch is added below. The forward end is always the first to be made fast.

The difference between two half hitches and the clove hitch is that the former, after a single turn around a spar, is made fast around its own standing part, while the latter is tied directly around the spar.

Truckers hitch hitch knot

The trucker's hitch is a compound knot commonly used for securing loads on trucks or trailers. This general arrangement, using loops and turns in the rope itself to form a crude block and tackle, has long been used to tension lines and is known by multiple names. Knot author Geoffrey Budworth claims the knot can be traced back to the days when carters and hawkers used horse-drawn conveyances to move their wares from place to place.

Overhand knot with draw-loop

A slipped half hitch or Noose is a knot in which the weight of the load the rope carries depresses the loop sufficiently to keep it in place until the load item is placed in its location. When no longer required the free end may be pulled and draw the loop through and so release the load.

Cats paw (knot) Hitch knot

The Cat's paw is a knot used for connecting a rope to an object. It is very similar to the cow hitch except there is an additional twist on each side of the bight, making it less prone to slipping.

The cat's-paw is the common hook hitch for slings. It is the same basic form as the bale sling hitch but has additional twists. Brady says "two or three altogether," and Steel, who mentioned the name in 1794, says "three twists." It is the best of all sling hitches and is often recommended for a slippery rope. But no hitch can slip when tied in a slings since it has no ends. All that is needed is a hitch that cannot jam, and this requirement the cat's-paw fills admirably. The knot spills instantly when removed from the hook. It is the hitch always used for heavy lifts.

Sheet bend bend knot

The sheet bend is a bend. It is practical for joining lines of different diameter or rigidity.

Stopper knot knot that creates a fixed thicker point on an otherwise uniform thickness rope for the purpose of preventing unreeving

A stopper knot is a knot that creates a fixed thicker point on an otherwise-uniform thickness rope for the purpose of preventing unreeving: stopping the rope at that point from slipping out of a narrow passage. Stopper has three distinct meanings in the context of knotting and cordage. A decorative stopper knot may be referred to as a lanyard knot.

The single-strand stopper knot is...[one variety] of knob knots. Generally it is tied as a terminal knot in the end of a rope, where it forms a knob or bunch, the general purpose of which is to prevent unreeving. It is found in the ends of running rigging. It secures the end of a sewing thread; it provides a handhold or a foothold in bell ropes and footropes. It adds weight to the end of a heaving line, and it is often employed decoratively, but it should not be used to prevent unlaying and fraying except in small cord, twine, and the like, as a whipping is in every way preferable for large and valuable material.

Cow hitch type of knot

The cow hitch, also called the lark's head, is a hitch knot used to attach a rope to an object. The cow hitch comprises a pair of half-hitches tied in opposing directions, as compared to the clove hitch in which the half-hitches are tied in the same direction. It has several variations and is known under a variety of names. It can be tied either with the end of the rope or with a bight.

Halter hitch

The halter hitch is a type of knot used to connect a rope to an object. As the name implies, an animal's lead rope, attached to its halter, may be tied to a post or hitching rail with this knot. The benefit of the halter hitch is that it can be easily released by pulling on one end of the rope, even if it is under tension. Some sources show the knot being finished with the free end running through the slipped loop to prevent it from working loose or being untied by a clever animal, still allowing easy but not instant untying.

Two half-hitches type of knot

Two half-hitches is a type of knot, specifically a binding knot or hitch knot. One variety consists of an overhand knot tied around a post, followed by a half-hitch. This knot is less often referred to as a clove hitch over itself, or double half-hitch.

Two half hitches is the commonest of all hitches for mooring in particular and also for general utility. Steel gives the name in 1794. The difference between two half hitches and the clove hitch is that the former, after a single turn around a spar, is made fast around its own standing part, while the latter is tied directly around the spar.

Yosemite bowline Loop knot often perceived as having better security than a bowline

A Yosemite bowline is a loop knot often perceived as having better security than a bowline. It has been pointed out that if the knot is not dressed correctly, it can potentially collapse into a noose, however testing reveals this alternative configuration to be strong and safe as a climbing tie-in.

Bight (knot) curved section or slack part between the two ends of a rope

In knot tying, a bight is a curved section or slack part between the two ends of a rope, string, or yarn. A knot that can be tied using only the bight of a rope, without access to the ends, is described as in the bight. The term "bight" is also used in a more specific way when describing Turk's head knots, indicating how many repetitions of braiding are made in the circuit of a given knot.

Zeppelin loop Form of loop knot

A zeppelin eye knot, is a secure, jam resistant fixed size loop knot based on the zeppelin bend. It is one of the few eye knots suitable for bungee. It is also special in its ease of untying.

Trident loop

The trident loop is a fixed loop knot which can jam when heavily loaded. It was proposed as a replacement for the figure-of-eight loop for use in climbing by Robert M. Wolfe, MD, who developed it as a loop form of Ashley's bend. While some tests indicate its strength lies somewhere between the weaker Bowline and stronger figure-of-eight loop, the trident loop shows exceptional resistance to slipping in shock-loading tests.


  1. Clifford W. Ashley, The Ashley Book of Knots (New York: Doubleday, 1944), 330.
  2. Ashley, 303, 305.