Features August 2018 Issue

Perfecting the Toss Requires Some Practice

Passing a line to a helper on shore is as basic a part of seamanship as tying a bowline. You’ve probably seen an old salt seaman cast a line 40 feet as casually as passing the pepper, but more often you’ve seen the line launched with a huge arm swing, only to tangle and fall short of the mark. A few simple tips, all assuming you are right handed and you are throwing ½-inch line.

• Tie a Figure 8 on a bight (photo #5) or other bulky knot in the thrown end of the line. The extra weight doesn’t carry the line, but it does help it straighten out to full length. The knot is only required when throwing long distances.

• Coil the rope into your right hand in clockwise loops about two feet long, up to a maximum of about 10 loops (when tossed underhanded the coil will unwind). Do not remove the twist that forms in the coils; you want what is called a figure 8 coil. A neat coil, like you would want to use for storing a rope, will fly into kinks as soon as you throw it.

• If your target is more than 20 feet away, slide the first coil up into the crook of your elbow and coil an additional 8 loops in the same direction.

• Transfer the second coil to your left hand and slide the first coil back down into your right hand.

• Toss the coils in an underhanded manner so that they unwind as they fly. The left-hand coil is tossed more lightly and released a split second later.

• Aim well past the target and a few feet to one side, so that it can drape over an outstretched arm.

When done correctly, this procedure will let you throw a line as far as 40 feet in a moderate cross wind (and a greater distance if the wind is behind you). This includes an allowance for the rope to fly past the receiver.

Comments (5)

Rigging is a challenge. You can open a gate (we did for some trials). Standing on the cabin top may work for you. We also made some good tosses by coiling the line in a smaller loop and shortening our swing. Side arm is not as effective, since gravity plays tricks. The key point is that the coil needs to be pitched such that the counter rotation uncoils the rope at the same speed that it is thrown. Perfected, the line reaches full extension and falls flat on the water, with no tangles. Distance comes with practice.

This is one of the key advantages of the rescue bags. They can be thrown in many different ways. But again, practice is key. Not just the skipper, the whole crew.

The best advise is to go out on the water and practice! In this way you can adapt to the geometry of your boat.

Posted by: Drew Frye | July 31, 2018 9:03 PM    Report this comment

I don't think I've ever been able to throw a line from a boat to the dock, another boat, or someone in the water without there being something (lifelines, boom, shrouds, or deck gear) that precludes using an underhand delivery. Unless you're standing on a cabin top or take down your lifelines or are on a boat with no lifelines; you'll usually have to use either an overhand or sidearm throw. Is your the suggested technique still valid using those throwing methods?

Posted by: Puka Kai | July 31, 2018 1:27 PM    Report this comment

A video of the technique you describe would be most helpful.

Posted by: Puka Kai | July 31, 2018 1:06 PM    Report this comment

Most people can throw a ball a greater distance than they can toss a line, and with greater accuracy.
With this in mind, I tie about 80 feet of very light nylon string (1/16" or less) to a 4oz fishing weiight. Drop the weight into a container (a 1 litre plastic yogurt container is fine), then loosely drop the 80' of string on top of it. Tie the other end of the string to a solid rubber ball. Put the ball on top of the line, put the lid on the container, and store in a secure, handy spot in the cockpit.
When needed, take the lid off the container, grasp the ball, and throw it to the helper, The fishing weight secures the bitter end. Once the helper has the string, attach a heavier line to it, and feed it to the helper.
This method even works well in heavy weather and strong cross winds..

Posted by: Lendasailor | July 31, 2018 12:58 PM    Report this comment

So what about us southpaws?I toss left handed.
Also a lot of controls,etc are not left hand friendly.That stinks.

Posted by: leftey3 | July 31, 2018 11:44 AM    Report this comment

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