Perfecting the Toss Requires Some Practice

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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.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. 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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