But the real pros at this were the old-time whalers - the ones who went out in the small boats with little more than a harpoon and a lot of line. When they speared a whale and the beast took off, it was critical, no, crucial, that the coil of line in the front of the boat payed out cleanly - their lives depended on it. For if it didn't, if the harpoon line suddenly turned into a giant Gordian knot as it payed out, the whalers in the boat were doomed.
So how did they store the line in the bow of their boats? No, not as a coil. For when a line is coiled into a stack of circular turns, it is necessary to put one twist in the line for each turn to make it lay flat. When the line is then removed from the coil, those twists pile up and eventually collect into a huge mess of a knot.
Instead, the whalers flaked the line into the bows of the whale boats. Flaking a line "coils" it without adding twists. Here's how to do it in hand:
If one end of the line is fixed, start near that end. Grasp the line in one hand and then with the other hand reach out a distance and grasp the line again. The distance apart determines the size of the eventual flaked coil. (If the distance is the full arm-spread of an adult male, it will be approximately 6 feet - the origin of the fathom, as useful now as it was then for quickly measuring the length of a line.)
Bring your hands together and transfer the line to the hand near the fixed end. But here's the trick: Do NOT add that twist which would be required to form a circle of the line. Instead, resist that idea. Done properly, instead of a circle, you'll have a figure 8 in your hand.
Repeat until you are near the end. Since we are not going to attach the bitter end to a harpoon, we'll use it instead to secure the flaked coil so that it doesn't spill all over the place.
Next, make a loop on the free end and pass it thru the accumulated turns you are holding in your left hand.
Finally, pass the bitter end thru that loop and snug it up.
This secures the coil and keeps it from getting tangled, and it provides a nice tail to clove hitch to a nearby rail to store the line.
What all of these methods have in common is the use of figure 8 flaking instead of coiling the line in circles. (There is a way to coil a line into circles with every other turn going in the opposite direction so the twists cancel out, but that's a story for another time.)
Figure 8's are your friend.