Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Dealing with Frayed Ropes

Well I haven’t found my boat yet but there are practical things I can be getting on with. One of these is to make up some mooring lines. I don’t know how long they’ll need to be but at least I can get the rope and start preparing it.

‘By his ropes you shall know the measure of a seaman....’ Basically, you can spend thousands of pounds on your boat, lavish her with care and keep her spotlessly clean, but all your efforts will let you down if you don’t look after your ropes. Frayed or unravelled ends just won’t do.

Any kind of rope will unravel or fray once it has been cut, so whenever you purchase rope you have a problem to deal with. There are several options. Synthetic ropes are often cut for you at the chandlery using a hot knife. It melts the rope as it is cut and it offers some protection against the rope unravelling but it shouldn’t be considered to be a permanent solution. The application of a little more heat at home can ensure that the end of the rope is sealed but the resulting unsightly black blob of melted plastic at the end of each of your lines doesn’t make a positive statement about your ability as a seaman. If you want to earn the respect of real seamen you have to do something better than that. Some people bind their rope ends with black tape. It can be effective, but it doesn’t look good either, so why not try good old-fashioned whipping. It isn’t hard to do and it’ll impress those who know about boats, ropes and the ways of the sea. Here is the easiest option.


This method has its limitations but you don’t need any special equipment other than a knife. Once you’ve mastered the technique you’ll soon be able to apply the more sophisticated technique of palm and needle whipping which I’ll describe in a later post.
Common whipping begins with a loop of twine laid alongside the end of the rope or close to the location where the rope is to be cut).

A number of turns are then taken about the rope working up towards the end of the loop. Each turn covers more and more of the loop until the whipping is long enough and then the free end of the twine is passed through the loop.

Pull on the other end of the twine and the loop is pulled out of sight under the whipping, taking some of the end of your whipping twine with it.

This leaves you with a loose end of the twine at either end of the whipping. Cut these away as close to the whipping as you can and the job is done.
If you’re working with new rope, apply the whipping before you cut the rope. If you’re unsure about how many turns the whipping should have, the general rule is that the whipping should be at least as long as the diameter of the rope. One other thing to remember is that you should always work ‘against’ the lay of the rope. There are lots different types of whipping twine, and the one you use for common whipping will probably depend on the thickness of the rope you are working with and what you have laying about on the boat. I prefer to use a thin waxed sail maker’s twine.

So common whipping is easy to make, follow the illustrations above and you should have no problem.