Ropes for Dopes Pt 1 of 4

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Ropes for Dopes

Good morning mates,

Let’s start talking about rope. The “Dummies” series of books can’t write about rope…if they did they’d have to call it “Ropes for Dopes” and that wouldn’t work. Rope is the basic stuff that we purchase to use on our boats to control our sails, attach our boats to the earth, and secure things.

types of rope, learning the ropesLearning the ropes

Actually, rope is something that we buy at the chandlery (the rope store). It comes on big spools that are hung on rungs. We go to the store and immediately get intimidated by all the colors, sizes, descriptions and the wide range of prices for what pretty much looks all the same. After we make our decision, often governed by the pretty color or our fear of being seen staring at the choices looking stupid, we cut off a chunk and from then on it is a line.

We take those lines to our boat and give them a job to do and with that we give them a name. That name is dictated by convention so that we can go from one boat to boat and communicate with each other. We call these lines names like sheets, halyards and rodes.

Types of rope

There are three basic types of rope (there are actually many more) that we deal with on boats, single braid, double braid and twisted. Each has its own characteristics and uses.

Twisted rope

Twisted (We tend to see three strand twisted although there are other variations), is designed to have a lot of stretch (16-20%). It is great for dock lines and anchor rode. There are two primary variants of twisted, right laid or left laid and we should always coil them with the twist. Right laid three strand has the twist going clockwise when you look at it and left laid three strand…well you take a guess.

Double braid rope

Double braid rope has less stretch than three strand and is constructed of a braided core (most commonly constructed of Dacron on our boats) with a braided cover. The core and the cover each share the load imparted on the line. Typical stretch limits on double braided rope are around 6-8%. We see double braid rope on our boats often as sheets.

Single braid rope

Single braid rope has even less stretch, often in the range of less than 1% to 3%. It is constructed using an inner core of parallel strands covered in a braided cover. Single braid line does not rely on the cover to carry any load rather it is there to protect against chaff and UV damage. A common use for single braid rope is for our halyards.

In all three types of rope there are many variants and at the end of this series I will provide some useful links to help you further in your selection. Tomorrow…what to pick and why!

There you have the types of rope, so basically you are now ‘learning the ropes‘!

Frank and Lisa’s Excellent BVI Adventure Pt 3 of 6 or 7

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Frank and Lisa's Excellent BVI Adventure


After a good night sleep, we were still catching up from traveling to paradise, we woke to beautiful breezes and lots of sunshine. You could see the scattered rain-squalls off in the distance but they only teased us and dry we remained. The question to ask was, “Where to today?” After contacting the marine mechanic back on Tortola, and learning that the new starter would not be available to us until Thursday evening we set sail to the other end of the Virgin to explore the Baths.

The Baths are an enchanting area with boulders the size of houses tossed and stacked on the beach as if God had been playing and his mother told him to clean up for supper. So in a temper tantrum he through his toys down willy nilly.

There are great tide pools hidden under temples of rocks. You can follow the kind of marked trails or if you’re adventurous try and find your own path through the maze. Often I’d set out ducking, climbing and swimming only to find myself back in the same spot fifteen minutes later. These paths whiskel their way to and fro so much that I often thought I’d never find my way out. The ultimate goal of traveling through the baths is to come out upon Devil’s Bay.

Funny I always thought that the devil was bad, but he sure has one nice bay. It is hard to find words that adequately describe the beauty of this tiny spot on earth. Water the color of a goddess’s green eyes, rock outcroppings to protect the bay from the normal 15-20 knot trade winds, little rock nooks and crannies that fish and wildlife call their home, the view is westward down Sir Francis Drake Channel with Tortola, Salt and Ginger Cay not so far away. It is simply breathtaking. But alas Lisa and I have to find our way back, regroup with the Chews, and make plans for what’s next.

What’s next is a sail between Beef Island and Great Camanoe Island, past Marina Cay and the Last Resort (both of which are bar/restaurants on rocks) and headed west. The obvious choice now is to continue to sail on between Tortola and Little Camanoe Cay but sometimes obvious isn’t right. So, we turned north through the narrow patch of water lined with reefs and shoals between Great and Little Camanoe Island. Then turning back to the west and crossing the small sound, we rounded Monkey Point, on the southwest corner Guana Island, to starboard and kept Tortola on our port side.

This was the first time the Chew’s had sailed in the Atlantic Ocean and she was in a good mood this day. She permitted us to proceed directly downwind, sailing a majestic wing-on-wing to the eastern shore of Jost Van Dyke. There we turned to the southwest enroute to Little Harbor.

Little Harbor is the home of Abe’s restaurant and the more famous (and more fun) Sydney’s Peace and Love. If you plan to eat at either of these places (and many other places in the BVI) you must call them by 4 on the VHF radio to let them know. They will ask you what size you want. Huh? Size? Size of what?

See, there is no menu at Sydney’s. There is lobster, small, medium or large (hence the question) or chicken. Period. When you order your meal they will tell you what time dinner will be served and then go catch your supper (I think any of the options). Period.

The most unique part of your experience at Sydney’s is that there is no bartender. You want a drink? Go make it and write it down in the book. Pretty cool. They have a wonderful selection of bright colored tees and clothing for sale. I love and always buy the “Sail Fast…Live Slow” shirts. Anyhow, down for the night for an early start the next day. Did I mention that the Chew’s have a tremendous amount of energy?

I’m beat, it’s been a great day! See ya tomorrow On the Water…With Captain Frank