A painter line is simply a rope tied onto the bow of your boat. It is usually attached to a deck loop installed on the forward part of your bow. Various knots can be used to tie the line to the loop, perhaps favoring the Fisherman’s Hitch similar to what you’d use to attach a line to an anchor.
On motorized boats, the painter line is specifically made to be shorter in length than the boat so the end doesn’t come in contact with the propeller or other motor parts. While this not an issue with kayaks, painters that are long enough to become entangled in an engaged rudder could present a problem upon retrieval if it got entangled in the blade.
Painters are useful for securing kayaks to moorings, docks or shore-side tie-downs. They could also be used as a towing aid in an emergency. Lining a boat along a shallow waterway by pulling it with the painter line is a common method of walking a canoe along some shore lines. Coupled with a stern line, the painter enables the paddler to control the boat as it’s pulled forward, especially in faster/stronger currents.
The end of a painter line can be simply whipped or can be tied into a small, fist-sized loop (an easy to untie bowline knot, for example). A larger loop can be quickly made by forming a lasso from the smaller loop. An elaborate “Monkey’s Fist” or other decorative maritime knot can also be applied.
A standard painter is a slightly stretchable, bright colored, 3/8” diameter floating line for craft up to 25’ long. Painter lines are typical stowed on deck by extending the line from the deck loop back towards the cockpit, coiling the remaining line and sticking it under deck bungees.
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