Ever stop to think about how much you use marine rope in your boating life? Between docking, anchoring, sailing and towing, marine rope wears a bunch of hats in the boating world. Without it, we'd drift aimlessly about with no wind in our sails (literally, because you gotta have rope for sails).
Whether you have a sailboat, pontoon boat, deck boat or cabin cruiser, marine rope is the one common piece of gear all boaters need. But what makes marine rope (or "line") different than any other rope?
How do you know whether you want a rope that floats as opposed to one that sinks? Yes, there are needs for both types in the boating world.
You can't (or at least you shouldn't) use just any old rope around water, salt and other outdoor elements. Whether you have a sailboat, trawler or canal boat, you'll want to take a few minutes to learn the important characteristics to look for when choosing marine rope.Sailboats, in particular, use a lot of rigging and rope that's not needed in power boating. Here are just a few types of marine rope that sailors know well:
One cool and useful feature about sailing rope is that it's often color-coded. In the sailing world, there are standard color codes to distinguish the use and length of rope.
Although you can really apply any color to any line of your personal vessel (so long as you remember what the codes stand for), here are the standard color-coded lines:
Now you know some cool sailing tricks and terms to impress your boating buddies with.
Ever notice how some marine rope has specks of different colors? It's called a "fleck" when there's an extra bit of color in the rope (like a white rope with flecks of blue).
When there's more than one color (like a white rope with red and blue), the term tracers is used. The flecks are used to indicate length or depth.
You'll find that several synthetic and natural fibers go into the construction of marine rope . Consider your budget and what you'll use the rope or lines for when making a decision.
In addition to the various types of marine rope fibers, there are a couple of ways marine rope is constructed, including braided, twisted and with a parallel core.
You'll find two types of braided marine rope: single and double-braided. Single-braided marine rope has a flexible construction that doesn't kink or twist. It's used on sailboat main sheets and large dock lines.
Double-braided rope has a braided core and a braided cover. It's easy to handle and is strong and durable. It's used in running rigging and dock lines.
A 3-strand twist rope is just what it sounds like ... a twist of three strands. It's flexible, durable and long-lasting. It doesn't harden with age and is used for anchors, running rigging, and dock, mooring and tow lines.
Marine rope with a parallel core means it has a unidirectional fiber core with a braided cover. It has less stretch but lots of strength. You can use it for halyards, sheets and anywhere you need a low stretch marine rope.
Every boater has a favorite brand or two when it comes to boating gear and supplies. Here are a few excellent ones to check out the next time you need marine rope.
Check Price on Amazon - Better Boat's 1/2-in. dock lines are made of marine-grade double-braided nylon. Lines are 25 feet long with a 12-in. whipped and heat-treated eyelet at one end. Sun, salt and water-resistant, it'll last season after season.
Attwood has been around for more than 100 years manufacturing anchoring, docking and mooring rope as well as general-use marine rope. They also manufacture other boating supplies like Bimini tops, trailer parts, deck hardware and other parts and accessories.
This solid braid anchor line with thimble is a great choice for boaters to secure their boats.
New England Ropes has been making marine rope since 1967. Their signature product was a 3-strand premium nylon rope that was durable, reliable and innovative.
Boaters use their products for anchoring, docking and mooring as well as mega-yacht rigging, performance cruising, Olympic competition and Grand Prix racing.
In business since 1984, SeaSense makes anchor and general use marine rope in nylon, 3-strand twisted and double braided varieties. You can also find kayak and paddle sport products.
They offer competitive prices for beginner to experienced boaters, campers, hunters and anglers. Their nylon dock line is an excellent example of twisted marine rope.
West Marine is one of my favorite boating stores (I'm especially fond of the Key West and Fort Lauderdale branches). From tow rope and dock lines to anchoring and mooring gear, they're likely to have most any kind of marine rope you'll ever need.
Along with using the correct rope for the job, and using the correct knots, you can keep your marine rope maintained and in top shape with these few easy tricks and tips.
Marine rope is exposed to chafing all the time in instances such as anchor lines over the side of the boat, tied up at the dock, hoisting sailing lines ... and the list goes on.
Chafing is just a fact of life in boating, but there are ways to prevent it. Simply put a piece of PVC pipe or a flexible garden hose over the exposed area. You can also stitch a piece of canvas (like a glove of sorts) to cover the places where chafing is impossible to avoid.
To prevent fraying of the rope ends, you'll need to secure the strands before cutting and treating the ends. Here are a few tricks.
The first method is called a Sailmaker's Whipping. You secure the strands using a needle and thread. It's the most traditional, and very effective, method, but it does require sewing skill.
The other method is to use tape (quick and easy). Once the end strands are secure, (for synthetic rope) you'll use heat to melt the ends into a protective end.
If there are non-synthetic fibers in the rope, cut around the core to expose just the outer pieces. This way the outer edges will form a protective cap over the core. After the end has melted, pound it down and flatten it.
If you've ever walked around a marina, you've probably noticed swirls of perfectly coiled rope alongside the cleats of docked boats. This isn't just an example of marine OCD, it's a way to prevent fraying, tangling and chafing of the rope.
It also keeps the rope within easy reach when you need it (free from dangling into the water). Some boaters prefer to use a figure-eight shape. It's all up to you.
Saltwater, dirt and other debris (including fish gills, bird droppings and the like) need to be rinsed off with fresh water at least once a season (you'll probably want to do it more often). Avoid soapy detergents, however, as they can wash away protective finishes on marine rope.
Along with cleaning, marine rope should be inspected at least once a season (usually at the end of the season). You'll want to look for chafing, frayed ends, dry rot, tears and worn spots.
Important spots to check are the areas on your boat where rope touches. There could be sharp edges on cleats, winches and the like as well as areas that snag the rope.
Now that you know the basics behind marine rope. Use it to your advantage to choose the best type for your boating needs. Next on the list? Mastering some of those fancy nautical knots
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