Ropes for Dopes Pt 3 of 4

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Ropes for Dopes

Good day to you all!

Yesterday we talked about selecting the correct line for the job. Keep in mind that we are talking about cruising boats, similar to the boats in Sailing Florida’s Fleet , not racing or passage-making boats.

types of rope, learning the ropes

Today, we will talk about the organization of your refit. There are several cordage (rope) manufactures that make products for the recreational boating market. The big three are New England Ropes, Yale and Sampson. You can go to their websites and read about their offerings for the lines we have spoken about here. They offer a vast array of products in a number of COLORS. The colors are what we’re going to talk about today.

I had a friend that bought a mid 80’s Ericson 27, or maybe it was a 28.  Anyhow, it was a very nice boat but still about 27 years old. When I went to see it I pointed out that he might want to think about replacing that 27 year old running rigging (you know, all the strings that make the boat go). He took my advice and went to the store and bought all new running rigging.

When he got home he went to work replacing all the lines on his boat. Later he called me and proudly announced that he had taken my advice and that I should come check it out! So, I did.

When I got there my mouth dropped as I gazed upon his boat decked out with 300’ of white and black checked stiff, rough, mostly undersized, nasty line. You know, the kind that when coiled makes squares instead of loops.   EVERY WHERE!

Did I mention that he was from West Virginia? Moral of the story: Be careful what you tell some people, they might just listen.   There are a couple of easy steps you can follow to make sure that your new running rigging is right and makes sense.

  1. Sit in the cockpit with paper and pen and make a list of all the lines you want to replace. Group them together like this:

Halyard                                   Sheets

USE                                         Color               Size     Type     Man               Size     Type     Man





Code 0


Color               Size     Type     Man






Reef 1

Reef 2

Main furler

Jib furler

  1. Decide what type of line you want to use for each of these groups (double braid, single braid, etc.)
  2. Research what size line you need for each specific job (i.e. main halyard, jib halyard, spinnaker halyard). This research will take into account the size of your boat)
  3. Select your manufacture (you might use more than one)
  4. Measure each line application and add 10%
  5. Select you color scheme for each ROW.

Okay, we haven’t talked about color yet so here we go. We are not trying to match the cushions nor are we trying to match the paint on the boat. We ARE trying to keep the lines organized by color to the sail they are controlling. For example, my jib halyard is Stay-Set X (white with red tracers) so my jib sheets are Stay-Set (red with white tracers). Got it?

I always make my 2nd reef solid red. I remember the following: “Put in red or your dead”. I like to use solid color lines for things that are not directly controlling sails. Things like the traveller and vang. I will change manufacturers to keep the theme going if I have to.

All those pretty color we talked about on day one exist for a reason, to allow you to distinguish every line and its job. Now we can order (very politely as we always do) our non-sailing crew to pull the red line and they will know what you’re talking about. You can teach them more as time goes on.

Tomorrow we wrap this up with a short talk about specialty and high tec lines.

Crap! Look at the time! I gotta go for so…..I’ll see you On the Water…With Captain

Ropes for Dopes Pt 2 of 4

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Ropes for Dopes

types of rope, learning the ropesWhen we purchase new lines for our boat we want to take several things into consideration.

  1. Is it strong enough: The lines we use for each job need to be able to handle the load that is going to be placed upon it. Sometimes it’s not so easy to figure what this load is but most cordage manufactures provide a selection chart to help you get the right type and strength of line for your job.
  2. Does the line have the correct stretch for the job: I can’t tell you how many times I walk down a dock and see a sailboat tied up with old jib sheets. Hey, why not? They’re long and strong and still have lots of life left in them, right? Well, they are long and they may have life still in them, although if you don’t want them controlling sail trim then why do you want them securing your $100k+ boat when your not there? But, they don’t have the key ingredient that a dock line needs. STRETCH!! We need dock lines to stretch so as to cushion our boat as the wind and tide move it about in its slip. We also want it to stretch to allow for tidal changes. Three Strand and Double Braid nylon stretch about 20%, typical jib sheets, about 5%. NO JIB SHEETS!
    1. Halyards: LOW STRETCH   Our sails are made of Dacron cloth and Dacron has quite a bit of stretch to it. We want the halyard to hold the head of the sail where it is. When a gust hits the sail the sailcloth will do the stretching for us (we’re talking about cruisers here remember). Single Braid Parallel Core does this job nicely. Stay-Set X is such a line
    2. Sheets: MEDIUM STRETCH As a gust fills our sails the sheets will allow for a little extra stretch and that helps keep the boat from being over-powered. A Double Braid line does this well. Stay-Set is such a line
    3. Traveller lines: LOW STRETCH Our sheets are already giving the sail trim a little extra forgiveness. Lets keep the boom where we want it, shall we? Single Braid here.
    4. Reefing lines: LOW STRETCH   Why are we reefing anyway? That’s right, cause it’s blowing the dogs off the chain. That’s why! When we reef we want the new clew to be held in place down and aft as firmly as possible. We want a FLAT sail! Flat sails are depowered and lord knows we don’t want any extra power! We haul those reefing lines as tight as we can get them. Low stretch for sure here.
    5. Furling lines: LOW STRETCH   If we always sailed with our sails fully deployed then the amount of stretch wouldn’t matter. But we don’t, or at least we shouldn’t. When we are sailing with the jib or main partially furled we want it to stay put. By the way, after sailing furled for a little while the wraps of the sail will tighten and the sail area exposed will actually be bigger then when we started. Keep an eye on this so you don’t become over-powered. Low stretch is our choice again.   Single Braid for me.
    6. Vangs: MEDIUM STRETCH   I like to have a little give in my vang. It helps keep the boat under control down-wind when the breeze is honkin by allowing the boom to raise a little in the gusts. Double Braid for me here.
  1. Does it feel good: Not all lines treat your hands the same. Find the line the meets criteria 1 and 2 and won’t tear your or your non sailing friends hands apart. Remember, not everyone on your boat is the seasoned weathered sailor you are!
  2. Is it kinky: Kinky is not always a bad thing, but at the wrong time or place it can be downright embarrassing. There’s nothing worse then trying to impress your non-sailing crew with a perfect tack only to get a kink at the genoa block in the middle of it. Evaluate each location and determine whether being kinky here is ok.

Well that’s it for today.   Tomorrow we talk about planning your running rigging refit. Remember always find a way to get On the Water… With Captain Frank!