How to Tie a Bowline

A tough portage, and the most useful knot in the world

BY JIM BAIRD

Once across Attikamagen Lake, we began traveling up a series of small connecting creeks, sometimes portaging along winter road blazes. When the creeks started traveling with us, we knew we’d crossed the height of land into Labrador, and were in the headwater lakes of the Du Pas, an ancillary tributary of the George River.

The country is low lying and boggy. Good camp sites are at a minimum. One advantage: the soft, wet ground has few protruding rocks, allowing us to drag on a couple portages. For this, we had to rig makeshift harnesses for ourselves.

We had to rig makeshift harnesses, and the bowline was the perfect knot.

Knowing a few good knots can be a big help when you’re in the bush, and for canoeists, the bowline is the perfect knot to use in attaching your painter and stern lines, especially when dragging. You’ll be hard pressed to un-tie a granny knot after a few hundred meters of hard pulling have tightened it. Luckily, Will’s an expert with the Bowline. Follow these steps and you’ll nail the bowline every time.

1. Form a small loop near the end of your rope.
2. Pass the bitter end of the rope up through the loop, as if you were tiring an overhand knot.
3. Continue around the standing end and back through the small loop.
4. Pull it tight.

The border between Quebec and Labrador follows the height-of land separating the waters from Ungava Bay and Hudson’s Bay on the Quebec side, and the North Atlantic on the Labrador side. This wilderness border stretches to the tip of the Labrador Peninsula. We’d crossed it three times just in reaching the put-in, and we’d cross it twice more on our route. Once over the divide, the shallow connecting creeks between the lakes slowly grew larger but there was still almost 50 miles of lakes paddling in front of us before we reached the main flow of the Du Pas.

Each Wednesday, C&K will release a new episode of Lessons From the Trail, presented by Nova Craft Canoe and Brunton, makers of the TruArc compass.