by Christopher Cunningham
Bungee cord is very useful stuff aboard a boat, but the precut bungees, fitted with metal hooks or plastic balls on the ends, are not always well suited to the applications I have in mind. The stretch of the cord itself might accommodate the length required for a particular job, though if the bungee is on the short side, the extra tension makes it hard to work with, and if it’s too long, making extra wraps to take up the slack takes time, often when there’s good reason for haste. I’ve never liked the metal hooks because they often snag things, and the plastic balls sometimes get loose and whip around like a monkey’s fist on a heaving line.
Most of the knots meant for rope don’t work with bungee cord. A sheet bend, even a double sheet bend, will come apart if you push the joined lines together, and a bowline will start to undo itself as quickly as it’s tied.
To make bungee cords for specific uses, I’ve used hog rings to create eyes in bungee cords and covered up the rings and the tail end with heat-shrink tubing. I don’t carry any of the equipment to do this work in the field, so if that were the only way to fabricate custom cord, I’d be stuck with what I’ve had the foresight to make at home. And the hog rings I have are sized for thick bungee cord; I’m not aware of hog rings small enough for 1/8″ bungee.
There are two special knots that do work with bungee cord, and while they are a bit more complex than a sheet bend and a bowline, they hold themselves together and can be easily untied.
The Zeppelin Bend will securely tie two bungee cords together. As its name suggests, the knot was used by the crews of lighter-than-air ships to join together two lines and hold under great strain without breaking or becoming hopelessly jammed. To add a bit of bungee cord to a rope, or to make a ring of bungee cord like an oversized rubber band, the Zeppelin Bend is the one to use.
The Angler’s Loop is the bungee equivalent of a Bowline. I’ve read that it was used when fishing line was made of gut of some sort, which must have been slippery and stretchy. Learning to tie the Angler’s Loop is the first step, and the next is learning to tie it with the loop the right size and the tail end neither too long nor too short. That just takes a bit more practice. With a Bowline, it is easy to tie the loop to something; after you thread the line through that, you just carry on tying the knot as usual. To tie the Angler’s Loop to anything, the thing gets involved in the tying and has to slip through the first loop you make.
For a stopper knot, the common Figure-8 works well with bungee cord and is useful for making toggled loops. I like plastic-pipe toggles better than the plastic balls used on commercial products. The pipe toggles are easier to engage with the bungee under tension and less likely to slip free.
I get long lengths of bungee cord in an assortment of diameters cut from spools at my local marine supply store and stock them my shop. I cut off whatever I need, making allowances for the length taken up by the knot, melt the ends’ woven sheaths to keep them from unraveling, and in a couple of minutes I have just the right bungee for the job.
Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small Boats Monthly.
Tying the Zeppelin Bend:
Tying the Angler’s Loop:
Tying the Angler’s Loop as a Tether:
Anchoring a Bungee Tether:
Tying Bungee to Rope:
Loops with Toggles:
An Adjustable Toggle:
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