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‘!

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!