Somerville Bowline [Level 1]


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.


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.


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