Somerville Bowline [Level 1]

  There are 4 techniques you should learn before this one. Click here to add this tie as a goal and see them in order.

Notes and Resources:

Overview

This column tie is a little bit tricky to learn, but once you get it into your fingers it's ultra fast to tie, and it's extremely secure. I use this pretty much any time I'm doing a column tie on a limb at the beginning of a new rope. The hardest part to get the hang of is forming the loop correctly on top of the cuff; you may want to watch a couple different videos to find the method that clicks for you.

When using this tie, be aware that it's near-impossible to undo while the rope is under significant tension; plan accordingly.

The easiest way to practice this tie on yourself is usually to cross one ankle over the opposite knee, and tie on that ankle/calf. You want to be facing the side of the limb you are working on; it's much harder to tie on your own thigh, for instance, because that's exactly the opposite of the angle you want. Pay attention to this when tying others, as well; it's usually much easier to move yourself or your bottom so that you can face the side of the limb you're tying, rather than tying at some awkward angle.

Video

Here's my most recent video of the Somerville Bowline; this is the best technique for learning it that I've seen, and what I currently teach in my classes:

That method for forming the loop was shown to me by Cannon; you can see him teaching it here. Cannon also made a cheat sheet for his method. Note that what Cannon shows in those links is slightly different than what I show in the video above; use what makes sense to you.

Other Methods

If neither of those does it for you, try this method (an improvement on what I used to teach, demonstrated by Parker); or Lochai has his own approach, as does WykD Dave.

If you prefer photos, you can refer to my original publication of the Somerville Bowline.

East Somerville Bowline

If you form the loop of the Somerville Bowline upside down, you've tied an East Somerville Bowline. While this is generally inferior in terms of compactness and stability, it offers unique approaches to tying the knot, the earliest of which was published by Trialsinner in 2011. WykD Dave has a method of tying it that he calls the Strugglers Knot, with the same end result.

Comments

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    HdCook | Mar 15th, 2015 7:55pm PDT #

    That first video link is broken. Or rather the page it links to has been hacked by some isil hacker. Just FYI.

    Reply to this comment

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      Topologist | Mar 17th, 2015 10:36am PDT #

      Thanks, I'll see if I can get the maintainer to fix it.

      Reply to this comment

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      ChoirboySadist | Jun 6th, 2016 7:42am PDT #

      Thanks for showing multiple videos of a tie! Sometimes hearing or seeing something that third or fourth or umpteenth time (lol) from that one person or that one camera angle is the one that makes it comprehensible. Given that I am almost worthless at learning by reading, the videos are indispensable for me.

      Reply to this comment

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        pleasedonotstop | Dec 29th, 2016 4:40pm PST #

        WykD Dave's link requires access to Fetlife, I suggest his recent video on Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qliQibxyPqc

        Reply to this comment

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          Cantov | Feb 20th, 2018 3:35pm PST #

          Is this also known as the Carrick bend single column?

          Reply to this comment

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            Topologist | Feb 21st, 2018 10:38am PST #

            A correctly-tied Carrick Bend (ABOK 1439) bears only superficial structural similarity to the Somerville Bowline, which is based on ABOK 1445. That knot is no more a Carrick Bend than the square knot, granny knot, sheet bend, or various other things all of which are possible misinterpretations of a diagram of a Carrick Bend.

            Evidently some people don't like my name for the Somerville Bowline, and/or are desperate to "discover" some earlier provenance for it. Personally I don't think "carrick bend single column" is either an accurate description or a catchier name.

            Reply to this comment

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            OfMiceandMandos | Aug 9th, 2022 9:43pm PDT #

            Hey there, so I've noticed that this knot is pretty much the go-to for a large portion of the online tutorials as well as in-person labs that I've attended in my area. My question is why? In other words, what makes this knot so special as opposed to the Portuguese bowline, the French bowline, the boola-boola, etc.?

            Reply to this comment

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              Topologist | Aug 19th, 2022 10:39am PDT #

              It's faster to tie than the French bowline, creates a more compact knot than the Portuguese bowline, and is much more secure than the boola-boola. Also, all cuffs based on a true bowline can collapse if the wrong end is pulled on (although which end is wrong depends on the variation) -- whereas with the Somerville, there is no wrong end; either side of the rope can be loaded.

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              foldinhalf | Sep 8th, 2022 12:56pm PDT #

              Beginner question— is a single or double column better for behind the back restraint?

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