Spring Haul-Out Ropecare Tips
With the Easter weekend upon us and Clubs and Class Associations gearing up for the summer season and circuit of championships, the rope experts here at Marlow have compiled a list of top tips to get your ropes ship-shape this spring along with good practice tips for ongoing rope maintenance to ensure that your lines last throughout this season and into many more.
Here at Marlow we firmly believe if you buy cheap you buy twice. Investing in a quality product means investing in the time, effort and education to ensure you are looking after it correctly so that it in turn it will look after you. If in doubt, always check with your local rigger or chandlery.
The recommended way to clean your ropes either at the end or start of a sailing season is by coiling the rope into a bucket and soak in non-salty water. Add mild soap flakes and gently agitate before tipping the soapy/dirty water away and filling with fresh water to rinse off. Don’t do anything too aggressive or abrasive to the rope fibres like scrubbing or jet washing. Every fibre counts so make sure they all stay together.
Hang up and let your rope air dry naturally. Don’t put the rope in the sun or use heaters to speed up the process.
In an ideal situation, Marlow recommend that rigging is removed and stored away between seasons – leaving mouse lines in place to aid re-installing the lines. Doing this will give you the whole winter to check the ropes and repair or replace anything that needs attention.
Unless absolutely necessary, it’s recommended not to leave your ropes loaded in hardware for a long period of time as this will lead to abrasion or fatigue implications. When they are taken off the boat always keep them in a clean, dry place and avoid exposing them to direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Depending on the technical fibres used, many won’t appreciate being left with direct UV exposure and will degrade and lose performance over time.
Do not allow dirt or abrasive chemicals to penetrate between the fibres of your ropes by dragging over rough surfaces or dirty ground. Abrasive particles like salt and dirt will easily work into the fibres causing hidden damage. Without cleaning or proper maintenance overtime, the longevity of your ropes will be significantly reduced.
In addition to the above abrasion, other causes for ropes to fail are usually as a result of the following, either collectively or in isolation.
- Damage in clutches, wearing in winches
- Chemical damage
- UV degradation
- Tensile overload
It is worth noting that a percentage of strength in your rope will also be lost when a rope is terminated, either in the form of a knot, lashing or splice.
COILING & TWISTING
Incorrectly coiling your ropes will put twist into them and if loaded into hardware will cause bigger issues (quite literally) further down the line. The ideal method to coil a braided rope is in the form of a figure 8. This avoids putting twist into the rope and will ensure correct running behavior when used again. It is also worth being aware that:
- 3-strand ropes of any type could be damaged if they are taken off a coil the wrong way.
- Avoid kinks that open up the 3 strands and compromise the integrity of the rope.
- When using a reel with a braided rope, make sure that it runs freely on a central axle. This helps avoid twists and kinks in the rope.
Knots are a very common way of terminating a rope, however significant strength is lost when ropes are knotted:
- Nylon/polyester ropes lose 50% strength
- Covered high strength ropes lose 60% strength and in the case of Dyneema this can be as much as 85%
- Uncovered high strength ropes lose 70% strength
Actual figures will vary depending on rope type, size, the knot quality.
If you do decide to use a knot, we recommend the following ‘Magnificent Seven’ which can be used to solve almost any rope problem. If you only learn one knot, a Figure 8 is likely to be the most useful to you.
- Figure 8
- Alpine butterfly
- Reef knot
- Sheet bend
- Clove hitch
- Round turn & 2 half hitches
- Prussik knot
When knotting a rope, strength is lost due to:
- D:d ratio – (the diameter of the bend compared with the diameter of the rope)
Collectively, this will affect the performance of the rope and specifically in high performance ropes where exotic fibres are often used such as Dyneema or Technora. This is due to the longer braided angles created when they are constructed and the fact that high performance fibres are low- stretch and therefore unable to accommodate the distortion created when using a knot.
To avoid a lack of strength you must make allowances for strength reduction and as a rule, we recommend splicing over knotting.
In almost all cases a splice is stronger than a knot, with only 10-15% strength lost.
Recommended Marlow splices:
- D2 Eyesplice
- D12 Locking Eye Splice
- D2 Taper
- 3 Strand Eye Splice
When splicing, it is worth remembering to avoid:
- Short tails which result in the splice slipping and pulling apart.
- Poor tapers – a splice typically falls at the taper, learning to taper well is the difference between 10% and 20% reduction in strength.
- Do not rely on ‘Brummel’ locks in 12 strand ropes – this can reduce strength by approximately 30-50%.