Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Knot tying chef

One of the side benefits to working a wilderness camp is you have the opportunity to learn skills other than in the culinary arts. Over the past nine weeks, I've become proficient in operating two different Honda generators, testing the water for chlorine content, bear-proofing waist disposal and cleaning the grease trap.

These are skills that I initially learned in the U.S. Navy Seabees in the early 1980s, but had set aside. But they are skills that the wilderness chef must master if he's to work independently of other camp staff.

Often the chef and his crew are the only ones in camp between meals. A self-sufficient culinary crew can relieve others of these tasks during the day when many are busy with other duties.

I recently re-learned to tie several important camp knots. Last week I asked David at Deer Crossing Camp to show me the bowline, a knot that's eluded me for years. I could never remember when the rabbit was supposed to come in or out of the hole or when he was supposed to go around the tree and dive back into the hole.

David patiently said, "The rabbit comes out of the hole, goes around the tree and back into the hole."

Simple enough. Then he said something that made sense to me.

"The tree in the lower piece in the loop," explained David.

It clicked -- suddenly I understood the process. In one simple sentence, David, an 18-year-old sailing instructor from Lenzie, Scotland, erased several decades of frustration with the bowline.

Since our Saturday know tying class -- one that took me back to knot tying in Navy boot camp -- I've working on a dozen other knots. Musty from handling pigtails, my hands have been busy practicing several useful knots.

Some, like the monkey fist, won't help me secure a kitchen tent to the forest floor. But it may if I need to weight down the end of a line or anchor a line to a rock crevace.

The figure eight, clove hitch and half hitch -- all knots that I've re-acquainted myself with over the past week -- will come in handy next time I need to secure a tarpiline over the wilderness kitchen.

Note: The links take you to an animated knot tying website called Animated Knots by Grog.

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