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 -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.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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