‘Knot’ Just Ropes: keeping the rope work tradition alive… ‘It could save your life’

Sailor First Class (S1)  Keiran Sidle

Sailor First Class (S1) Keiran Sidle holds a rosette knot. The rosette is a piece of decorative rope work. Photos submitted by
S1 Sidle.

Lilian Fridfinnson, 
Maple Leaf

Over time, the traditional Boatswain naval trade has evolved to require less knack and artistry, but Sailor First Class (S1) Keiran Sidle is dedicated to preserving the craft of rope work.

“We’d handle the splicing, the whipping, and now that stuff comes pre-made. It’s fading out the rope work part of our trade,” S1 Sidle said. “Decorative rope work isn’t taught anymore.”

Splicing’ is the formation of a joint between two ropes, and ‘whipping’ is done to prevent rope fray.

Although the role has advanced, and boatswains are responsible for the operation and maintenance of a ship’s rigging, cargo handling, and small crafts, S1 Sidle says the tradition of rope work is worth preserving in today’s Navy for more than just the custom.

“It could save your life,” said S1 Sidle, a Surface Rescue Swimmer. “When I rescue somebody, I have the horse collar around me. A lot of people don’t think of knots as being that important.”

The ‘horse collar’ is a rescue sling used by a Rescue Swimmer to bring someone back to the ship. A rope connects the ship and the horse collar, which is placed under the arms of the individual being rescued from bringing them back in. For S1 Sidle, such rope work is practical and essential knowledge for those working at sea.

The usefulness of rope work was paramount for S1 Sidle, and he started teaching it to young sailors to offer a positive introduction to the Navy and provide them with what he believes are crucial skills.

“I like teaching juniors how to do the trade. That’s like ‘moulding’ new minds, good habits, good mannerisms and a positive attitude toward the Navy,” he said.

But the introduction to rope work does not end with young aspiring sailors. S1 Sidle creates art to garner attention for his trade and as a means to unwind in his free time. He posts his work on Facebook, selling some of his projects, and even gifting his handmade knife sheaths and key chains to fellow sailors – reminding them of the functionality of rope.

“I feel like decorative rope work is an artsy way of getting people interested in rope work again,” he said.

S1 Sidle even incorporates his trade into his daily life, finding leisure in the tradition of his trade after long days at work.

“It’s a good way to relax. For me, I could be sitting, decompressing, watching TV, doing some rope work, and making something look pretty,” he said.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.