From waking up and tying your shoelaces to riding a bosun’s chair, learning how to handle line aboard ship is a steep curve. One of the most difficult tasks for apprentice seamen to master is mooring ops and we are here to let all new sailors know there will be few moments less embarrassing then totally missing the mark with a heaving line. So pay attention. The American Merchant Seaman’s Manual tells us:
In heaving, the right arm should be held straight, and the line in the left hand allowed to run out freely. Frequently the problem in not getting a long heave is that the coil in the left hand is not arranged clearly for running. Prewetting the line is done to improve distance and handling. To become proficient in heaving, you must practice frequently. Every Seaman should practice making casts. A poor cast is always a reflection on the ability of the Seaman.
The ultimate embarrassment (for both the ship and yourself) would be making a mistake in full view of the Captain, Pilot, Mates, Crew and the grammatically challenged longshoreman gang waiting to tie up your ship. To prevent this many Bosuns hold basic line handling contests while the vessel is at sea. Here’s an example, watch one minute into the video for an excellent example.
While the technique you develop to heave line is important it all starts with a good Monkey’s Fist. This is not the easiest knot to learn but it’s important. To learn the technique be sure to watch the video below then visit the Monkey’s Fist page of our favorite resource Animated Knots by Grog.