It's easy to ignore the ropes on your boat. Quality ropes are strong, resistance abrasion, and can survive years of exposure to sunlight and harsh environments, all without giving them a second thought. So why should we pay closer attention and do more to protect our ropes? By putting a little extra effort in rope protection and maintenance you can increase their performance, durability, and reliability. All things that make sailing and handling your boat safer and more enjoyable.
In general, it's good practice to regularly inspect your ropes an get an idea of their current condition. Also make sure you're using the proper rope for a given job. During your inspection check for:
- Chaffing or seriously warn surface areas
- Kinks/twists in the rope
- Movement in splices and joints
- Broken, cut, or frayed strands
- Compacted or hardened areas
- Surface friction burns or melted areas
- UV damage and degredation
If you have any serious doubts about the condition of a rope and it's suitability for continued use, feel free to contact me. If chafe is found at a specific area, search for the cause of the chafe and remedy it if possible. Some parts of a rope are more prone to chafe than others, and it may just be worn from normal use. Halyards tend to chafe where the exit the mast head, and sheets often wear at the attachment point to the sails.
Here are some general guidelines for proper rope use:
- Never allow a rope to kinked or twisted as this will impair it's life and usability. Ideally rope should be stored using a figure-8 pattern to avoid inducing twist.
- Avoid sharp bends that put undue strain on the rope, as this reduces the number of fibers taking the load. The remaining fibers are ineffective due to compression.
- Ropes wear excessively through chaffing and abrasion if they are worked in the same position for any length of time. Inspect the rope's load bearing areas and alter their position on a regular basis if possible. Common problem areas include halyard sheaves, turning blocks, cleats, fairleads, genoa cars, ratchets, stoppers, and swivels.
- Make sure your blocks and sheaves are the correct width and diameter for the rope the are being used with.
- A correctly spliced rope retains between 90-95% of the rope strength, where knots can reduce the strength of a rope by well over 50%.
Storage techniques for the end of the season:
- Ropes should be stored under cover and not left out in the elements for extended periods.
- They should be clean and dry, out of direct sunlight and away from extreme temperatures.
- Never store ropes on concrete or dirty floors. Any dirt and grit picked up by the rope can work into the strands, possibly cutting fibers and damaging the rope.
- Salt crystals are natrually abrasive and will affect the life and efficiency of ropes. Soak your ropes in fresh warm water to disolve the salt.
- Most ropes can be washed in the washing machine on a gentle cycle with a mild detergent, consult your rope manufacturer. A bathtub also makes a good place to soak and wash your ropes at the end of the year.
By following these simple guidelines for regular inspection and maintenance, your ropes should last for many seaons of trouble free sailing.