What Is a French Bowline Knot?

french-bowline-knot Credit: William Andrus/CC-BY-2.0

The French Bowline knot is a variation on the double-looped bowline. It is used to fasten mooring lines or to link two ropes together. Its downsides are that it cannot be untied when there is a load on its end, and it comes untied when it's not loaded down.

To tie a French bowline, start by winding one end of the rope at least four times around the object to be secured. Leave enough length at the end for another turn. Form a loop on the long end, passing it behind the winds. The top of the loop needs to project beyond the winds. Form another loop in the long end. Push this loop through the original loop. Wind the short end around again, and push it through the second loop. Pull the long end taut, securing the knot.

The French bowline is distinctive in that it can be tied one-handed, and because the French bowline features several loops, pressure is distributed over a wide area, making damage less likely to the secured object. It can be used to loop around almost anything, making it a useful sailor's knot. The French bowline is also commonly used among stage hands for rigging and other backstage tasks. This knot is also useful with rescue personnel. It can be used to secure a person for hoisting or lowering, even when the person is unconscious.