Target Practice

The Trick of the Toss.

Have you ever seen the hollywood ending to any good sports movie where the ball, in slow motion, creeps into the 18th hole, or spins out of the pitcher's hand whiffing the batter on a 3-2 count in the bottom of the ninth? Or flies from the QB in a perfect spiral and the receiver makes a fingertip grab in the end zone? Everyone goes ape? Game over? Well, this wasn't like that at all.

My buddy yelled from the dock that he'd left his cell phone onboard. So I walked up to the bow for the hand-off, but the captain was having a hard time nosing us close. We were 10' off when I heard those famous last words, "Just heave it." The cell left my hand slow-mo-like, and halfway to shore it hit an invisible wall and nosedived straight to Davey Jones' locker. That silenced the crowd. Whether you're coming into the dock, tying boat to boat, or-God forbid-heaving a lifeline to a crewmember overboard, there are times when you need to complete a throw over water. Here's how to dial in the perfect toss. (Note: The directions given are for righties; southpaws should reverse 'em.)

The grip and the coil. If you want to avoid snickers at the dock, you ought to be able to heave a line at least 35', and good line handling starts with the grip. Hold the line in your left hand and place it under your left thumb. The left hand grip is the same no matter the situation. Take about 5' of line in your right hand and give it a half-twist clockwise, then bring the line and place it in your left hand to form a coil. The trick is to avoid figure eights. Continue placing the coils in your left hand until the entire line is in your left hand. Now take the last half of the coils in your right hand and check to make sure the line pays out freely. Glance around to make sure the line won't catch on anything. Coming up short is usually the result of the coil in the left hand snagging.

The stance and the motion. With your feet shoulder-width apart, move your left foot a few inches forward. At this point your right arm should be hanging - Gorilla like - waist high. Swing the coils in your right hand backward far enough so that when you come forward, you have some momentum. It's best to toss the line with a sweeping, fluid motion, like a roundhouse punch delivered from an uppercut plane. At the same time, move the left hand in the direction of the target, and open your grip, making the uncoiling of the line in that hand easier. The proper throwing motion will force you up onto the balls of your left foot, while your right foot recoils behind you like a bowler. From the waist up, a good toss will leave you looking briefly like Larry Bird after sinking a jump shot with your arms and belly pointed at the target. The distance the line travels will depend on fluidity and strength.

The finishing frame. The line should pay out in an arc several feet above the water. When throwing the line to a dockhand, it helps if you've already tied a loop or splice in it to make it a no-brainer for the person to drop the line around a cleat or piling. If there's no dockside help, you'll have to lasso the deckware. No problem, Wonder Woman. Use a bowline with a 3' bight. Grasp the bowline and the standing part of the line in your right hand, palm up. Now do the same thing with your left hand about 2' below your right, but turn your palm down. The coil that would have been in your left hand should be on the deck near your left toe. Turn your body sideways to the target, left foot in front. Now throw a roundhouse like a roundhouse. Most important: For perfect accuracy every time, keep your eyes on the target. When it seems like everything is happening in slow motion, you've done it right.