|"Monkey Fist" knot.|
3.5" diameter, weighted, knotted hemp for use as a heaving line.
Artifact from the collection of the S.P.H.S.
Photo by Allison Hart Lengyel©
Below text written by mariner Spike Africa, President of the Pacific Ocean.Cordage; Courtesy of Wooden Boat Magazine,
Issue 26; pg. 20.
"The origin of this knot is lost in the vague vapors of the past. Some say it was suggested by the old method of trapping monkeys.
I was in Callao, Peru on a five-masted schooner discharging lumber from the West Coast. We were slow in discharge due to the fact that there were 156 sailing ships in port so we had some time off. I met a young Peruvian fellow who sold monkeys ● ● ●
Shortly after the Peru trip I made a drastic change in my sea-going career. Tired of sleeping in box cars and lumber yards, I shipped Bos'n on a big, gleaming-white, passenger ship plying between San Pedro, CA and Honolulu. The main reason for this cowardly act was that I wanted to see the much-heralded dancing girls of the Sandwich Islands. For years, each time I passed even a tiny-masted vesssel I hung my head in shame. But times were hard and this pristine behemoth had a famous chef and a copious store room. In short 'they sure set a nice table.' So I went aboard, donned the whites, squeezed my leathery feet into cute sneakers, and headed for the pineapple country.
The item that made this entire switch from sail to steam was that I met William Turnquist, Chief Mate, a Swede with a British accent, and one of the few survivors of the TITANIC at the age of 15. A fine seaman and a thorough gentleman. We became good friends and had long gams about sailing ships. I met with him early each morning and he layed out the ship's work.
One day he told me he had trouble getting the lines ashore when docking. The former bos'n had put sand bags on the heaving lines, and they were too light. So I took a 2-inch machine nut and pounded lead into the hole and bent a Monkey Fist around it. 'Very fine', he says. In the early morning we enter the magic harbor. Hawaiian boys are diving for coins and we on the fo'c's'le are throwing potatoes at them. Bands are playing ashore and afloat, and flags are flying. Soft breezes off the land are laden with the odor of flowers. A little different than the guano-laden winds off the San Lorenzo Islands and the open-sewered streets of Callao.
There's a big crowd, and on the dock are 600 passengers waving and yelling. On the fo'cs'le head, in white uniforms and four stories above the dock, is Mr. Turnquist and his forward crew. 'Get your heaving line ashore, Spike. Aye aye, sir, here she goes.'
I made a fine pitch and got a US Navy four-striper right between the eyes. He went down like a polled ox.
The Monkey Fist was never retrieved, and I got a citation from the Navy--the only one I ever got. The loaded Monkey Fist was banned from the docks."
"A proper heaving line should be about 75-feet long for a yacht of moderate size, longer for a large vessel. It should be light enough to throw easily, yet strong enough to haul a person through the water, and 5/16 inch manila is about right. In order to give weight to the end of the line so that it will carry some distance a knot of considerable size is required. Since time immemorial the monkey's fist has been the standard knot used for this purpose, and no one has been able to come up with a better one."
The Marlinspike Sailor by Hervey Garrett Smith, John de Graff, Inc., 1960