The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Dead Ending Reefing Pennants

Most people dead end reefing pennants round the boom with a bowline, but that’s hard to tie tight and even harder to untie after it’s been under load. And don’t even think about using a buntline hitch unless you want to use explosives to untie it.

There’s a better way: the humble timber hitch, finished off with a figure eight, as shown.

Quick to tie, and easy to untie no matter how hard it’s been loaded.

Not sure where I learned this—the sort of thing the great Rod Stephens would have come up with—but I have been terminating reefing pennants this way on all kinds of boats for some 50 years and have never had one fail on me.

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Harald Bjerke

Why not the other way around the boom?

Richard Ritchie

Have I missed something? If bowline is around rope to make a slip, not round boom itself, it is as tight as you want and comes off easily….

Seth Winnick

A few years back, I switched from using bowline slip loops to using halyard bends, following the advice in Beth Leonard’s Voyager’s Handbook. The halyard bend is very secure and, with three wraps around the boom, it does not change position on the boom, which is key to getting a good reef in on my boat.

Ignat Fialkovskiy

bowline hard to be undone? Must confess never heard of such situation…

Ignat Fialkovskiy

well, I did 🙂

moreover, the rock climbers use it a lot, and still after repetitive high loads (10 ft body weight fall, e.g.) it always opens nicely

Nojan Moshiri

My guess is that you add salt air/salt water, and it changes the equation a bit.

J N Daily

Hi John.

I am somewhat new to sailing so please forgive me if this questions is naive or I am misunderstanding something.

All of the reefing lines on my boat are quite old and I would like to replace them. In Running Rigging Recommendations Part 1 you suggest going to high-modulus rope for reefing pennants. Can the timber hitch that you highlited here be used with high-modulus line and if so are there any precautions to take to in order to reduce the chance of the core slipping?

Thanks JD

J N Daily

Thanks so much, John.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been sailing for only about six years and have much to learn. Your site is my go-to resource and has helped me immensely in trying to become a better sailor.

Charles Hendricks

How is this knot for noise? Our reefing lines are really loud from the bowline rubbing on the boom.