Today I made two heaving lines, which is really no bit thing. Tieing a monkey’s fist is old hat, ad I figure I have tied hundreds of them over the years.
The first thing I did before I started was to dig into my stash and break out a couple of weights I have had a friend make me just for this specific purpose.
For those non-nautical readers, a heaving line is a light line with a weight on one end that is used to throw to a person on the dock. A heavier line (too heavy to be thrown) is attached to it and then the heavy line is hauled ashore (or wherever).
Now the monkey’s fist is simply an old school knot on the end of the heaving line to give it some weight so it will fly true when it is thrown. Generally a weight of some sort is placed in the monkey’s fist to give it more oomph.
I sat down to tie a monkey’s fist and was reminded of a job I did a few years back for the Navy.
A flattop was headed into the yard for repairs or something and the powers that be decided that it would be a good idea to empty some of the fuel off of the leviathan. I suppose it was probably a pretty good idea.
We came alongside in a 35,000 barrel oil barge to do this work.
Now, the carrier deck was much higher than we were, so the Navy guys decided to be kind and throw their heaving lines down to us so we didn’t have to throw ours up. Nautical courtesy dictates this. Make it easy for the other guy.
There was a pretty stiff wind blowing and their heaving lines blew all over hell. They could not get one to fly true in the wind. We grew impatient and my shipmate grabbed one of my heaving lines and giving the shout of ‘Incoming!’ he let loose. The monkey’s fist and its attached heaving line traveled like a bullet and landed on the deck of the carrier with a thunk.
The person nearest it happened to be the Chief of the deck and he did what sailors of any rank do, he hauled the heaving line and the attached deck line up and dropped the eye over the strong point.
When he was done, he examined the monkey’s fist and shook his head sadly. “That’s one hell of a heaving line. Haven’t seen one of those in a while” he said. “Navy regulations keep us from making them this way anymore.”
It made me sad to hear him say that.
We worked our way in closer to the huge vessel and then the Navy guys sent down another heaving line, which I snagged. It was then I saw the problem the sailors were having.
Attached to the end of their line was a wiffle ball.
The waffle ball on the end of a piece of 3/8ths inch line actually made it worse than having nothing at all on the end.
Of course, I didn’t blame the poor sailors for the lousy heaving line. It doesn’t take a Harvard Law School grad to know that, but it would not surprise me in any way to find out that it was a Harvard Law grad that decided to hamstring the Navy with a foolish safety regulation.
My guess is that some dweeb seaman recruit wasn’t paying attention and got bopped on the head with a heaving line and when his mother found out that here idiot kid got hurt, she wrote her congress critter who, in turn, raised hell with the Navy. The Navy powers that be, fearful of losing an appropriation of some sort, issued the appropriate orders mandating the use of waffle balls on the end of heaving lines.
This sounds like small potatoes, but it really isn’t, a heaving line thrown out and hitting the dock can make all the difference between colliding with a dock or a ship and a smooth docking.
Besides, this is also a symptom of the trends I all too often see where, covered under the impenetrable cloak of safety, common sense gets thrown out the window.
Often times the new policy backfires and takes a situation that has inherent risks to it go from mildly risky to outright dangerous.
Monkey's fist knot
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