Know how: Learning the Ropes - Sail Magazine

Know how: Learning the Ropes

Your ropes and lines are a very important part of your boat’s inventory. Mark Corke offers some advice on cleaning and care.
Author:
Publish date:
BWropes5_1

Overworked and often overlooked ropes and lines need as much care as other onboard equipment. Rope is expensive, so it makes good sense to get the best and longest use possible out of it. Without proper care, any rope is more subject to failure. Remember that your dream is attached to your mooring or dock with just a few lengths of nylon.

Dirt and salt shorten the life of ropes; both are abrasive and will wear away at the fibers, weakening the rope making it stiff and unpleasant to handle. Salt is hydrophilic, so a rope that contains a lot of salt will always feel damp to the touch and will attract even more dirt. To prolong the life of your onboard ropes, clean them at the end of the season. Wash them, dry them, and hang them up in a dry place—not in a damp locker—during the off-season. Most ropes on the average cruising boat are made from either nylon or polyester (Dacron) and are easy to care for. If you have any high-tech ropes, consult with the manufacturer before subjecting them to a dunking in the washing machine.

Tip: To further prolong the life of your ropes, make sure that anything the rope is likely to come into contact with is in good condition. Blocks, sheaves and winches should be free of sharp edges. Tape all cotter pins and other objects that could snag ropes and lines.

NOTE: There was some heated debate here at BW as to whether the correct term is "ropes" or "lines." The verdict? Unless it's performing a specific job, it's a rope. So there.

BWropes1

This jumble of rope came off a small daysailer and is about half of the total inventory of ropes and lines used aboard. The amount of rope used on a larger boat represents a considerable investment.

BWropes2

Check each rope for chafe and general wear and tear, and untie all knots. This braided rope is well worn and will probably be discarded.

BWropes3

I like to wash my ropes in string bags. Use a bag that can be closed tightly to prevent the ropes from becoming tangled in the washing machine. Small zippered lingerie bags are ideal; for large rope, use a pillowcase.

BWropes4

Wash in cool water, and set the machine for an extra rinse cycle if possible. Use a little mild detergent—about a third of the normal amount for a load of this size.

Ropes can be air-dried or dried in a machine on low heat. Remove the ropes from the bags first to cut down on drying time.

BWropes6

One or two ropes can be washed in a bucket. Change the water frequently after the soapy wash until all traces of detergent have vanished.

Chafe Protection

BWropeschafe

Protecting ropes from wear caused by chafe is probably one of the best things that you can do to extend their lifespan. For permanent mooring pennants, a length of canvas stitched to the rope works well.

BWropeschafe2

Another favorite for chafe protection is a length of plastic pipe slipped over the rope. This is simple and cheap but prevents the rope from bending and can cause hard spots.

Modern chocks are often undersized and may have sharp edges that can shred a rope in a matter of hours. Three-strand nylon rope has good stretch and is ideal for mooring lines and anchor rodes.

Related

04-CLR1718md1085-jpg

A Historic Win for Wendy Tuck

This past summer Australian sailor, Wendy Tuck (inset), became the first woman to win a round-the-world yacht race when she and her crew aboard Sanya Serenity Coast claimed the overall victory in the 2017-18 Clipper Race. “I am just so happy,” Tuck said at the finish in ...read more

daviscards

Davis Instruments: Quick Reference Cards

CHECK THESEIf you’re sailing with new crew this summer or your kids have suddenly and inexplicably started to look up from their phones and take an interest in the finer points of cruising, these Quick Reference Cards from Davis are a great way to further their boating education. ...read more

01-rbir18-596

Another Epic Round Britain Race

There are basically two kinds of offshore sailboat races out there: those that take place annually, like the Fastnet and Chicago-to-Mackinac races; and those that take place every other year, like the Transpac and Newport-Bermuda race, in part so the competitors have sufficient ...read more

01b_WALKING-KEDGE-OUT-cmykpromo

Getting More Use From Kedge Anchors

If you are cruising, you need at least two anchors on board for the simple reason that you must have a backup. Imagine having to slip your anchor on a stormy night with other boats dragging down on yours, or having your rope rode severed by some unseen underwater obstacle, ...read more

SailAwayCharter

How-to: Navigating on a Bareboat Charter

So you graduated from navigation class where you practiced dead reckoning, doubling the angle on the bow and maybe even celestial nav, and you now feel well prepared for your first charter trip. Well, you won’t be doing any of that on vacation—not past the first day, anyway.Most ...read more

04-Turtle-rescue

Turtle Rescue in the Vic-Maui

Strange and often wonderful things can happen in the course of an offshore sailboat race, and one of the strangest and most wonderful things we’ve heard of recently took place during the 2,300-mile 2018 Vic-Maui race, from Victoria, British Columbia, to Lahaina, Hawaii.It ...read more

dorcap-open-blue

ATN Inc: Dorcap

COOL SLEEPYou’re fast asleep in a snug anchorage, forehatch open to catch the breeze, when you’re rudely awakened by a sneaky rain squall. Now you’re not only awake and wet, you’re sweltering with the hatch closed. Sucks, right? That’s why ATN came up with the Dorcap, an ...read more