Introduction: Ratcheting Truckers Hitch Used to Secure Cargo Such As a Mast on a Trailered Hobie Bravo
Here is a way to tie a ratcheting trucker's hitch (also referred to as Wolfdrool's hitch) with true ratcheting action. By ratcheting, I mean that you can pull the line to tighten up the knot over the cargo, and then when you stop pulling and let the line go, the tension stays put. The big advantage over a regular trucker's hitch is that you can secure the line tighter over your cargo. The ratcheting part of the knot also has a quick release capability.
Below, I’ll show how to tie this version of the trucker’s hitch in the context of securing a mast on a trailered Hobie Bravo as shown in the initial figure. The knot can be used anytime you want to secure cargo with a trucker's hitch that has a true ratcheting effect.
After the system is set up the first time, using it thereafter to secure the mast (or other cargo) is very fast. With the boat on the trailer and the mast in place on the boat, I need at most 5 minutes to tie fore and aft ratcheting trucker’s hitches.
I’ve road tested this new ratcheting version several times to secure a mast on a Hobie Bravo. I trailered to a lake about 20 miles from my home (40 miles round trip). The journey is mostly two lane and interstate. No rough roads. In all seven outings, the hitch held snug to the destination and back home again.
I use two lines fore and aft, and hence two independent ratcheting trucker's hitches to hold my mast securely on the boat. It might take a little time to set up the two lines the first time, but after that I leave the lines in place on the trailer, releasing only the ratcheting side to put the boat in the water. This means, after the lines are set up the first time, thereafter using this hitch to secure the mast on the trailer is faster than using ratchet straps. The system also is gentle to my mast and sail.
The conventional trucker’s hitch is a great knot to know and has a long, proven history. The knot is not a single knot but rather is a combination of several knots integrated into a single line. The composite is useful for securing cargo on trailers. The conventional trucker’s hitch has good pulley action, but no true ratcheting action.
This new knot modifies the regular truckers hitch in a few ways to get both pulley and ratchet action. First, instead of using a single rope loop for a pulley, I use a pair of rope loops, side by side. Instead of merely using these loops as pulleys, I use a modified garda hitch to weave the line through the loops so I get both pulley action and ratcheting action. Advantageously, the ratchet has a quick release feature, so you need to tie of the tail end of the line after pulling everything tight in order to prevent the quick release. To tie this tail off extra tight, I add what I call a “collar lashing” and two half hitches to a clove hitch to make the tying off tighter and more secure. A clove hitch on its own is not secure enough on the rectangular beams of my trailer. On the way from one side of the trailer to the other, I also form a clove hitch around the mast. This helps to secure the mast side to side, up and down, and fore and aft.
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Step 1: Secure the Boat on Its Trailer
The Hobie Bravo is placed on its trailer as shown in Figs. 1a, 1b and 1c. Four green ratchet straps are used to hold the Hobie Bravo on its trailer. Each strap is looped around a hull through a corresponding scupper hole in the cockpit. When sailing, water drains through these holes.
Although I used the new ratcheting hitch to secure the MAST to the boat, I still use the 4 ratchet straps through scupper holes to hold the boat itself on the trailer securely. Why? Ratchet straps are so much stronger than all but the thickest line.
Step 2: Place the Mast on the Boat
The sailbag including the mast and rolled up sail is placed on the hull as shown in Fig. 2. In the picture, the mast is just sitting on the hull and has not been secured yet. Using the ratcheting truckers hitch, a pair of fore and aft lines will be used to secure the mast on the hull. I position the sailbag so that the sail bag is about 16 inches over from the port gunwhale. I can’t center the sail bag on this boat due to mast support hardware in the center.
Step 3: Supplies
Very little in the way of supplies and tools are needed. All that is needed is line, duct tape, and shears as shown in Fig. 3. The line is 3/8 polyester with 280 lbs break strength. With knots, the line break strength likely is half that.It has done the job, but if I could find it, I would use line with higher breaking strength, but this line is what I had on hand. The duct tape is wrapped tightly around the line IN ADVANCE before and where the line will be cut to length. This is a fast and long lasting way to keep the line from unraveling after it is cut.
Step 4: "Anchor" the Line to the Port Side of the Trailer
Now is the time to “anchor” a first line to the port side of the trailer. Ultimately, two lines, fore and aft, will be used to secure the mast in place. Fig. 4 shows the resultant boom hitch. Fig. 5 shows the steps to create the hitch.
A boom hitch is used to “anchor” the first line to the port side of the trailer. The boom hitch is the Cadillac of hitches and is very secure. Although the boom hitch is more complex to tie than many other hitches, I only have to tie this hitch once, because I will leave this boom hitch in place when the boat is off the trailer. It’s worth the effort.
I used the step by step instruction sheet in Fig. 5 to help me tie the boom hitch. Fig. 5 is upside down, but that’s how I want it. I flipped instruction sheet upside down so that the hitch shown in the guide is in the same orientation as the way the line runs on my trailer and around the boat. You can also see how to make the boom hitch at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boom_hitch.
I’ll call the portion of the line heading up from the boom hitch as the working end. The line hanging down is the port side tail. The yellow tape on the end of the tail protects the short tail, which is now trimmed to 3 inches long. The yellow tape on the top on the working end heading up to the boat is on for reference. If I ever take the hitch off the trailer, the yellow line shows me where to position the line so this end is long enough to make the same hitch again.
Each time I cut the line, I wrap a few turns of duct tape tightly around the line at the cutting location. Then, I cut through the middle of the wrap to cut the line.
IMPORTANT: The tail should not be more than 4 inches long and must not be able to reach moving parts of the trailer. If longer, the tail needs to be cut shorter or securely tied off somewhere not near any moving parts.
Step 5: Form a Clove Hitch Around the Sail Bag
I now feed the line from the port side of the trailer over to the starboard side so I can secure the sail bag. As shown in Fig. 6, on the way from the port side of the trailer over to the starboard side, a clove hitch is formed around the sail bag. This is an important part of the system to hold the sail bag where I want it. The clove hitch around the sail bag is snugly tightened at this stage, but otherwise the line heading away from the clove hitch over to the starboard side is still loose at this stage. I position the clove hitch so the sail bag is about 16 inches over from the port gunwale. As mentioned in the introduction, I can’t center the mast on this boat due to mast support hardware in the center. Everything will snug up further when the whole system is tensioned.
To tie a clove hitch, see http://vmrcc.org.au/boating-safety/common-knots/c... The clove hitch is unsuitable on its own in many applications, but really is quite suitable here for helping to secure the sail bag as the line traverses from port to starboard. Later, when removing the sail bag, the clove hitch releases easily by pulling the line heading into the clove hitch up to the sky once the tension on the line leading away from the clove hitch is eased.
Step 6: Form a Bowline With Two Loops
At this stage, you can use any knot that forms two, fixed, side by side loops that are the same size. I used a bowline with two loops as shown in Fig. 7.
The two loops need to be as close in size as I can get them, as these are part of the ratcheting system. Note that after being formed, the bowline is positioned at the gunwale. This is where I want it. Form it too low down the hull side and I might not be able to draw the line tight enough. Too high, e.g., up on top of the hull, and it’s a little harder to draw the line tight like a drum. This knot only needs to be tied once during initial set up. When taking the mast of the trailer, I leave this knot in place so tying down the mast next time takes very little time. You can untie the clove hitch around the mast (Step 5) without untying the bowline.
Figs. 8A, 8B, show how to make the bowline with two loops. Start by forming a little loop. In knot books, this is sometimes called the rabbit hole. In 8A, the line running across my index finger is the line coming from the sail bag. The line going across my ring finger and bandaged pinkie is the pulling end that I will later pull to tighten things up and then tie off. Note the pulling end is on top of the little loop I am forming. As shown in 8B, I will also form a bight (open loop). In Figs. 9A, 9B, and 9C, I lead the bight loop up through the small loop (rabbit hole), then around the back of the line coming from the port side and back toward me, and then back down the little loop (rabbit hole). The two bowline loops I end up forming don’t need to be big, but they should be close in size. I make sure the bowline is good and tight. I should be able to pull on the loops, the line coming from the port side, and the pulling end (which is the free end) without the loops changing sizes.
The site at http://www.animatedknots.com/bowlinebight/ teaches another way to tie a similar knot, but it’s a little easier to make a mistake using that technique to inadvertently end up tying an undesired slip knot instead of a bowline.
Looking back at Fig. 7, note the bowline is hanging right at the gunwale, a good position. The working end is hanging down toward the ground. In a conventional trucker’s hitch, there’s usually only one loop that is used like a pulley to draw the line tight. In the conventional trucker’s hitch, the working end, here hanging down, is fed around the trailer and back up through the loop, and then pulled back down and snugly (hopefully) tied off on the trailer. The loop in that case acts like a pulley. Here, we will feed the working line in a modified way, as we will use the two loops to create not only pulleys but also a ratchet effect to help pull everything tight as a drum.
Step 7: Weave the Line Through the Bowline to Form a Garda Hitch
The strategy now is to use the two rope loops of the bowline to form a modified garda hitch (also known as the alpine clutch) in order to create a rope ratchet. This hitch is normally formed using two carabiners, not two rope loops. But we get desirable ratcheting action with a modification that uses the two rope loops instead of carabiners. An advantage of using two rope loops to form the garda hitch is that, no matter how tight you tension the knot, the “rope style” garda hitch I’ll form here can be easily released by pulling on one of the bowline loops and/or pushing the knot back up into the bowline loops. I prevent the quick release by snugly tying off the pulling end of the line on the trailer after ratcheting the line tight over the sail bag. Because the ratchet knot used here can be released quickly, don’t use this rope version as a substitute for the carabiner version if you were to ever want to use the garda hitch elsewhere such as for mountain climbing. Even the carabiner version is criticized for its quick release characteristics and is not viewed as being suitable for climbing. It works here because we can tie off the tail on the trailer to "lock" the garda hitch and prevent release when it's not wanted.
Fig. 10 shows the first stage of forming the modified garda hitch. The working end is led from the bowline knot down around the trailer and then back up to the double bowline knot to be fed through both rope loops. Our plan to complete the garda htich is as follows. Before leading the working end back down to the trailer a second time to be tied off as occurs in a conventional truckers hitch, we’ll first feed and wrap the line through the bowline one more time. But instead of feeding through both loops as shown in Fig. 10, the second time we’ll bring the working end down between the two bowline loops as shown in Fig. 11.
That’s all there is to creating the ratchet effect. Now the line I just fed between the two bowline loops (the pulling line) can be pulled to tighten the line over the cargo. The way the pulling line is fed around the trailer and through the loops gives me both pulley and ratchet action. I can let go, re-grip, and pull tighter as many times as I want. When I let go, the tension stays in the cargo line. I can even let go and go have coffee and come back later. The tension will be there when I get back. This is a big advantage over the regular trucker’s hitch, where tension is released if you let the pulling line slacken even a little.
In Fig. 12 I’ve pulled the line over the cargo very tight. I’m not holding the pulling line, but the ratchet effect holds everything over the cargo in tension. The tail of the pulling line coming out of the ratchet knot is still slack, though, because I have not yet tied it off for security. I now need to tie off the end of the pulling line tautly to the starboard side of the trailer so that the ratchet knot cannot release and the tension is secured. Note that the part of the line holding the cargo is already fully tensioned. We’re not making that part of the line tighter at this stage. We’re just securing and tightening the tail end of the pulling line so the ratchet can’t come undone and release the cargo tension.
Step 8: Securing the Line to the Starboard Side of the Trailer
Now I’ll tie off the tail of the pulling (tensioning) line to secure the ratchet knot. As shown in Fig. 13, I secure the end of the pulling line to the trailer using a clove hitch. The clove hitch can be pulled reasonably tight, but I can make it tighter using a trick from skin on frame boat building where where a lashing can be used to pull itself tighter such as in X or Y lashings. I call what I’ll make a “collar lashing.” Also, I need to make this clover hitch more secure. On a big rectangular trailer beam, the clove hitch on its own is not secure enough.
Fig. 14 shows the first step to make the clove hitch tighter and more secure. First, I take the tail coming out of the clove hitch and feed it under the trailer beam and then back over the top toward me on the right side of the pulling line that comes down from the ratchet knot. Next, I take the end I am holding and feed it over the top of the trailer beam on the left side of the standing part. I let the tail drop behind the trailer beam so I can reach under and grab the line and pull it back toward me. In effect, I’m forming a rope collar around the standing part. It looks like a collar, so I call this a “collar lashing.” It makes the line coming down from the ratchet knot much tighter.
In Fig. 15, I pull on the tail of the rope coming toward me under the trailer beam to pull the collar and the pulling line even tighter. While maintaining the tension, the plan will now be to bring the tail up to form two half hitches on the neck of the pulling line just above the rope collar in order to secure everything. The website at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_half-hitches shows how to make two half hitches to secure the end of a line.
Fig. 16A and 16B show forming the two half hitches. My final tail was longer than 4 inches, so I added a third half hitch and that gave me a suitably short tail. You can't see it, but the very tip of the line is tightly wrapped with duct tape to keep the line from unraveling. As mentioned, anytime I cut the line, the line is wrapped tightly with duct tape before cutting.
To re-cap, after pulling on the ratchet knot to tighten the line, we need to secure the loose tail of line coming out of the ratchet knot. To do this, we secured our line as tightly as we could to the trailer with a clove hitch to start this off. Then we used a rope collar to pull the line leading to the clove hitch even tighter the same way X or Y lashings are used to pull lashings tight in SOF boat building. We then used half hitches to secure our tensioned clove hitch. I refer to the end result as a “collared clove hitch.”
Step 9: Add Another Line
I just described tying down the mast with a single line using the ratcheting trucker's hitch. Now do the same thing with a second line. You should use at least fore and aft lines (a minimum of two lines) to secure the mast. I've never used more than two lines to secure this mast, and I've not had any issue. With heavier cargo, I'd use more lines.
Step 10: Releasing the Cargo
Fig. 18 shows the mast secured to the boat in a nice tidy package. Note I’ve used two lines, fore and aft, to secure the mast. Both lines are tied the same way using the ratcheting truckers hitch. Both lines are secured around the sail bag using a clove hitch. The two lines are drum tight. The sail cannot move side to side, up or down or fore and aft.
Ready to take the boat off the trailer for some sailing?
When you put the boat in the water, all you have to do is release the clove hitch on the starboard side of the trailer, release the ratchet knot, and remove the clove hitch from around the sail bag. Leave the bowline in place and leave the boom hitch tied to the port side of the trailer.
Releasing the ratchet knot is easy no matter how snug it is tightened. First, release the collared clove hitch on the starboard side of the trailer so that the pulling end coming out of the garda hitch is slack. The line over the cargo is still tensioned, but this next action will quickly release that tension. Quite simply, as shown in Figs. 17A and 17B, grab the bowline loop that is tight and pull it outward. The ratchet knot pops up into the bowline loops and releases. This is one reason that pulling line needs to be tied off tightly to the trailer to help prevent the ratchet from releasing. Sometimes, if pulling the loop outward does not release the ratchet, you can also push the ratchet knot up into the bowline loops to cause the ratchet to release.
Leave the bowline in place. Remove the clove hitch from the mast. Leave the boom hitch in place. Remove the boat from trailer, and secure/wrap the lines on your trailer so they don't drag while you go park.
Securing the mast after the initial set up will be fast. The boom hitch and double bowline are in place. All you need to do is to wrap the mast with a clove hitch, weave your garda hitch and pull it tight, then tie off the end with the collared clove hitch.