The main claim to fame of the highwayman's hitch is that it can be quickly untied by pulling the short end. The knot just slips out of the ring. It's an easy way to cast off without having to untie a knot by hand. It is not intended to be a very solid knot but really a convenient way to tie up to a dock before going sailing.
I use this knot when I am alone to cast off in my Skerry. After tying the knot I drop the end of the line to where I sit in the boat. I can easily pull it and cast off.
This knot is tied in the bight, without need to access the end of the line. A bight is a curved or slack section between the two ends of a rope.
Tying a Hywayman's Hitch
A loop goes through the ring, then from the boat side of the rope another loop is formed and gets slipped into the first loop. From the working end (the left side) another loop is formed and slipped into the second loop. At that point you can tighten the knot and it will hold.
I prefer to add still another loop from the short working end. When you want to cast off, all you need to do is pull on the working end (on the left of the illustrations) and the knot falls off and away you go.
I guess you could release a horse and run away fast if you were a highwayman.
Don't use this knot if you are not staying near your boat. It is not a permanent knot. If the conditions are rough and there is lots of pulling and slacking of the pressure. If the line you are using is really slippery or stiff it is more likely to come undone. I watched this knot come apart after the loose end of a fairly heavy line fell in the water and was bobbing up and down and sort of pulling on the knot. After a few minutes the knot had come undone.
Some people have suggested this knot as a good knot for towing a boat if there is the possibility of having to quickly cast off and disconnect the 2 boats. It needs to be watched though.
My Ten Must Know Knots
These are 10 knots that I think are essential for all sailors to know.
- Bowline, The Must Know Knot
- Round Turn and two half hitches a useful multipurpose knot
- The Fireman's coil keeps your coiled rope from getting tangled.
- Sheet Bend joins 2 ropes together
- Figure of Eight Knot
- Reef Knot
- Highwayman's Hitch
- Cleat Hitch
- Constrictor Knot
- The Anchor Bend Knot
Improper use of knots can be dangerous. Know how to tie them properly and what knot to use when.
This web site reflects my personal ideas and doesn't represent anyone else's point of view.