Skipper’s Tips #13 – Don’t get your lines in a twist

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I’m sorry it’s been a while since my last post; I’ve been a little busy with boating commitments, Christmas and some other bits and bobs.  However, here I am again with my latest Skipper’s Tip.

We all take our ropes for granted.  Shove them in a locker when we leave the berth and sling them back on as we return.  I wonder how many of us actually take the trouble to inspect the lines and consider if they might need replacing?

Now Winter is coming to an end, it might be a good idea to give some thought to your ropes and perhaps even take a look to see what those winter winds have done to them…

© Richard Corbett 2011
Hopefully they look a little better than this one!!

If you’ve ever looked at the array of lines in chandlers or for that matter, on display at a boat show, you will know only too well just what a bewildering choice we boaters have today.  Aside from the number of different types of rope, there seems to be an infinite variety of colours to choose from – I wonder what the rope makers of history would think about the advances that have been made in rope technology, we’ve come a long way since hemp and sisal?

In my opinion, there are two basic requirements for ropes aboard a vessel.  You will need ropes that stretch and ropes that don’t stretch.  For instance, if you want a rope to haul your mainsail up and you want it to stay near the top of the mast, then clearly you are going to need a rope that doesn’t stretch.  Similarly, how are you going to get your headsail pulled in tight if the rope keeps stretching?

On the other hand, if you’re mooring alongside a harbour wall, and you know the tide is going to drop overnight, you are going to need to set your lines a good distance aft and forward of your boat but a little flexibility in the lines also helps allow for that extra, unexpected drop in water level – this when stretch would be a requirement not a fault.

You can get your ropes in 3 strand form, where the rope is normally twisted with a right hand twist to produce the type of standard rope we are all familiar with or you could have a braided rope, that may or may not have a central core.  Another type of rope again, are the woven style ropes, which are particularly soft on the hands. Regardless of the style you decide to go for just make sure you are getting the right rope for the job – stretchy nylon or polyester ones for jobs like mooring lines or anchor warps and pre-stretched lines for sheets and halyards.

A good tip for looking after your lines is to make sure you hang them up to dry before you leave your boat.  Coiling mooring lines into a ‘cheese’ on the pontoon may look pretty but it won’t allow the lines to dry properly and they may rot or at the very least start to smell.  You will find out just how much a rope can smell after you’ve left it in a locker for a couple of weeks without letting it dry first.

It’s worth having plenty of spare line on board your boat.  It could come in useful one day if you have to tow someone or they you.  You might find yourselves rafted up and needing to send independent lines ashore.  Either way, extra lines are a definite bonus.  I make sure that my mooring lines are at least 10% longer than the boat and I like to have two lines twice the length of the boat for shorelines or mooring between piles.

I remember once having to anchor in 45 metres of water, in fog, in the middle of the night.  We had just enough rope on board with it all tied together to make the anchor hold; we were so glad we had all that rope on board.

Keep an eye on your mooring lines at your berth too.  At the point where the line goes around the cleat it can chafe and because you cannot see the inside of the line, where it’s rubbing against the cleat, you won’t be aware that there is a problem.  I’ve seen some people use a chain and a giant spring which helps prevent snatching as well as protecting the rope.  I’ve also seen folk put rubber hosing onto the line at the point where it goes around the cleat and that protects it too.

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

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