The Constrictor: a powerful 'Queen' of sailing knots!

How to tie the Constrictor - photo by John Jamieson
Which sailing knot do you need to tie when you absolutely, positively must keep a rope bitter end from fraying, lash a broken sailboat tiller together or keep and engine hose in place--without hose clamps? John Jamieson here describes one of sailing's most under-used sailing knots...

If you already know how to tie the clove hitch, then you are about 75% on your way to tying the constrictor. As a matter of fact, with just a bit of practice, you'll be able to crank out the constrictor in about ten seconds.

Why the constrictor?
Why know this powerhouse 'king of torque'? Use this fast, easy, sailing knot to...

* Whip the bitter end of a cut line.
* Repair a broken tiller fast and easy.
* Clamp a patch over a blown engine hose.
* Make lashings for a dinghy or life-raft.

Tie the constrictor and take out the slack and it holds with the tenacity of a tenacious octopus. In fact, you will be surprised that it seems almost impossible to wiggle out of the constrictor. But fear not (fear knot?)...

Slide the constrictor off your hand or the contraption it's tied to and it transforms itself without assistance into the straight line it once was--smooth and easy!

Master rigger, sailor and author Brion Toss ('The Complete Rigger's Apprentice') says this about the constrictor knot:
'When drawn up sufficiently tight it is an amazing thing, at least as valuable as the kingly Bowline. If the Bowline is the King of Knots, surely the Constrictor is the Queen'.

Note in the illustration below, the deliberate separation between parts of the rope (bitter end and standing part) for clarity. In reality, these will be much closer together as you tie the knot. Grab some line and tie this super sailing knot now to take your sailing skills sky high.

How to tie the Constrictor:
1. Practice with an 18' piece of small diameter sailing rope. Use a horizontal structure like a rail or your hand. Pass the line over the object (see illustration 1 above). Note the wide separation of the standing part and bitter end. Keep this slight exaggerated width to make tying the knot easier.

2. Pass the bitter end over the standing part (illustration 2 above). Notice that you keep the bitter end low on the standing part. This prepares you to finish the knot in the next step.

3. Tuck the bitter end beneath the lower right-side loop; then tuck it beneath the top right-side loop (illustration 3). Pull on the standing part and bitter end to tighten and compact the knot.

Check Both Sides for Ultimate Security!


Look at both sides of the knot (see photo). Take particular care with the back of the knot. You should see two bights of the knot side-by-side and parallel to one another.

Remember, the tighter you pull on the bitter end and standing part, the tighter the constrictor will 'seize up' on the object or fitting. That's where this sailing knot gets its reputation for power and security to 'clamp down like a clam'.

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John Jamieson (Captain John) shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need for safer sailing worldwide. Visit his website www.skippertips.com. Then sign up for his free, highly popular weekly newsletter 'Captain John's Sailing Tip-of-the-Week'.
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