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Does Your Boat Have Bitts Or Bollards?

Cowboy Bob Hill
May 21, 2008
Tugboats and trawler fishing boats inspired the trawler yacht and it is a descendant of its working cousins. These yachts, more often than not, are equipped with Bitts and / or Bollards just like their relatives. They have cleats just like other boats, but Bitts and Bollards are there to do the big jobs.

Now if you have a trawler yacht, you might want to know the correct way to belay a line to one of these babies. Well, first let's look at them because there are many styles. If your boat doesn't have all of them (and I have never seen one that does) then you should pay attention anyway because chances are the docks that you pull up to will sooner or later present the other styles, especially if you travel around the world as trawler folks like to do.

Bitts and Bollards are heavily built devices for belaying lines. Bitts may be classified as single, double, H-Bitt, Cruciform Bitt and others. Bollards may have a single post, double posts (either vertical or angled outward from center), Cruciform, staghorn, and many other styles. Sometimes Bitts are called Bollards and vice versa.

Lines rely on friction to keep them attached to Bitts, Bollards, Cleats, Lines, or other things. Friction increases with what is called normal force. Normal force is the perpendicular force between two objects. So, for example, when the load on a line increases (the boat drifts away from the dock and the line tension increases) the normal force between the line and the Bollard increases and the friction increases. If the total friction of the connection to the Bollard is greater than the force on the line to the boat, the connection holds.

Line connections to Bitts and Bollards can be made to quickly release or made for a more permanent connection. The problem with the quick release method is that a boat tugging on a line can cause it to become undone. Alternatively, when a line is positively tied off it may be hard to undo when required or when in a hurry. If a pre-tied loop is to be used the difficulty is that its size has to be predetermined which may not be possible when the intended bollard is on a dock yet to be reached. Also, a loop may not be a positively secure way of attaching to a Bollard. However, a loop may be used as a Lark's Head on a double cruciform Bollard. This would be a very secure attachment in my opinion and if it does not have a load on it, it can be released quickly. If loaded, however, it cannot be easily released. Another way to more securely attach a loop to a single post Bollard is to first place the loop over the Bollard and then put a half twist in the loop behind the Bollard to form another loop and then bring the resulting second loop back over the Bollard toward the front. A larger loop will be required for this, but the result is more secure than just dropping a loop over the Bollard.

A knot called the bowline is known as the king of knots because nothing can jam it and it will never slip if properly tied. It can be tied in one hand to form a loop.

A Clove or ratline hitch is a convenient knot for making a line fast to a spar, the standing part of another line, a piling, or a Bollard. It is used to temporarily fasten a line, but it must be watched as it might undo if slack. When under a strain, however, it will not slip, but when under a hard strain, it will set up tight and may be difficult to break loose.

The usual methods of securing a line to a double Bitt is to make one turn on the first post and then wrap the line in a figure eight pattern over both posts of the Bitt. This arrangement may be removed quickly when necessary. Belaying the bitter end of the line coming off the Bitt on a cleat can further security. On a single post Bollard the usual way is to either tie several hitches to the Bollard or to slip an appropriate sized loop of line over the Bollard or as described earlier. Cross pieces on the Bollard can help keep the loop from slipping off the Bollard, but I prefer to ensure that the line will not accidentally come off.

Next is the Lighterman's Back Mooring Hitch which may be used on a single post Bollard, on a piling, or for heavy towing. Also known as the Tugboat hitch and the Backhanded Mooring Hitch, it is a well known and much trusted little number that, like the figure eight described earlier, can be undone even if there is a massive pull on it. It works well when you wish to moor to a Bollard - maybe whilst waiting for a lock or taking on water etc. and can be tied or untied in moments.
About the Author
For pictures and details on belaying to Bitts And Bollards: Trawler Yachts. http://www.trawleryachts.net
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