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Marlinespike is the art of seamanship that includes the tying of various knots, splicing, working with cable or wire rope, worming, parceling, serving and even making decorative ornaments from rope or line. The name marlinespike is derived from the tool that is used for splicing. It can be a tapered metal pin or carved of wood. Once a rope is onboard a boat and is given a specific purpose, such as dock line, halyard, etc. it is called a line, not a rope. Although you won’t be asked to actually tie a knot for your USCG License exam, you should be familiar with several knots, know how to tie them, how to recognize them and be able to explain their use. Also, if you are going for a 100 ton Masters license you will need to know about wire rope, breaking strengths, block and tackle (pronounced taykle), etc.
Marlinespike - Types of Rope Construction
Types of Rope Construction Rope is constructed in two basic ways, laid and braided, although there are variations on the theme. The first is "3 strand" line. The direction of twist is called the lay of the rope. Three strand twisted line can be "laid" right or left, and should always be coiled with the lay of the line. This rope is described as S-laid (left-laid) or Z-laid (right-laid) according to whether the twist follows the line of the center part of the letter S or Z. Most three strand rope is Z-laid (right-laid) If you hold a length of 3 strand right-hand laid twisted line at arm's length and eyeball it, you will see the wrap of the line twisting to the right. The construction of stranded line, whether natural or synthetic, is much the same. Individual fibers are twisted into yarns, the yarns are twisted into strands and the stands are twisted into line. Right-laid is twisted clockwise and left-laid is twisted counterclockwise. The fibers are twisted in the same direction as the strands,
however the yarns are twisted in the opposite direction. This right, left, right for right-laid line helps give strength, keep the line from kinking and hold its shape. The other construction type is braided line. This type of line does not stretch to the degree that twisted line does, and is more difficult to splice. However, it goes through a pulley or block very well because of its rounded shape, and is stronger than its equivalent-sized twisted line. Braided line also tends to snag when used as docking line if the pilings are rough.
A variety of braided lines are available: • • Braid on Braid has a braided core inside a braided sheath - will stretch less, and has less flexibility, than a hollow braid. Multibraid is braided with 2 pairs of Z-laid and two pairs of S-laid strands – it is flexible and does not kink. Parallel Core has a braided sheath over a core of straight or lightly twisted yarns – it is very strong. Hollow Braid has no core – is very flexible but can flatten during use. It is only found in small sized rope.
Marlinespike - Rope Materials
There are many materials used today to make rope; synthetic fiber, natural fiber and wire. The most popular is nylon, a synthetic. It is strong, holds up well to the weather and stress, and coils without kinking. Line is also made from natural fibers like cotton and hemp (manila), and other synthetic fibers such as dacron, kevlar, and polypropylene. Polypropylene line is the least expensive of the synthetic lines, however, it deteriorates quickly from ultra-violet rays and wear. It is not a good line for dock line because its hard surface tends to slip from cleats and can cause cuts if it runs free through your hands. It floats, so it is good for rescue lines. It is also appropriate for ski lines, dinghy painters, short mooring pendants or other applications where you want to be able to see the line on top of the water. Not for use as dock, anchor or towing lines. Nylon rope has a lot of stretch (up to 40%) and is very strong for its size, allowing it to absorb shock loads well. However, when it is wet it can loose up
however. Natural fibers such as manila. is almost as strong as Nylon. well-ventilated place to help prevent mildew and rot. Natural fiber line should be uncoiled from the inside of a new coil in order to prevent kinks. chafe easily so check it often and protect as necessary. prevent the ends from fraying with a temporary binding or whipping. and stored dry. than natural fiber ropes. resists mildew and rot. Synthetic rope ends can be sealed by melting. It does not stretch as much as Nylon and does not float. generally. It wears well. Just make sure it does not stretch too much for the situation in which you use it. either with a special heat tool for the purpose of cutting and sealing (as shown in photo). It will. anchor lines and as running rigging. Synthetic lines are slipperier than natural fiber ropes so be sure to check your knots to make sure they are secure. However. hemp and cotton will shrink when they get wet and also tend to rot or become brittle. Small line ends can be dipped into acetate glue or a commercial "liquid whipping" material. Plastic heat-shrink tubing is also available. sisal. inspected frequently for chafe. Synthetic lines are lighter and stronger and more rot-resistant. Manila has a minimum of stretch and is very strong. Always whip or tape the ends of natural fibers to keep them from unraveling.to 25% of its strength. towing lines and other applications where you don't want line stretch to interfere. or by melting over a flame to fuse the fibers. and retains its strength when wet. When natural fiber lines have been in salt water you should rinse them in fresh water and allow to dry thoroughly. Polyester rope wears better than polypropylene. They should then be properly coiled and stored on grates above deck in a dry. Manila is still used today on large ships and is the best natural fiber for mooring lines. kept out of sunlight.Rope Breaking Strength . Marlinespike . Nylon three-strand is the preferred line for dock lines since it stretches sufficiently to dampen the shock of wave action and wind against your cleats. anchor rode. When cutting synthetic rope. it has only about one-half the strength of a comparable-sized synthetic line. Synthetic lines should be cleaned with fresh water and detergent. Polyester (such as Dacron) is used for sailboat running rigging. and does not float. Adhesive tape wound around the ends can be a temporary binding.
0 1. 2.5 X 1. synthetic and wire rope. The weakest point in the line is the knot or .14 = 1. let’s find the breaking strength of a piece of ½" nylon line. natural fiber.14) X diameter As an example. for purposes of the USCG license exams. all lines must be measured by circumference. (comparison factor X 900 lbs. First convert the diameter to circumference as we did above and then write the formula including the extra comparison factor step.218 pounds of breaking strength To calculate the breaking strength of synthetic lines you need to add one more factor. (.57) Then using the formula above: 1.5 2. X circumference2 = breaking strength) When you purchase line you will buy it by its diameter. Since synthetics are stronger than manila an additional multiplication step is added to the formula above. Synthetic lines have been assigned "comparison factors" against which they are compared to manila line. a comparison factor has been developed to compare the breaking strength of synthetics over manila. As mentioned above. Circumference = p PI (3. X circumference2 = breaking strength) Following is a comparison factor chart for synthetic lines.572 X 900 = 5. (900 lbs. you would first calculate the circumference. if you had a piece of ½" manila line and wanted to find the breaking strength.5 X 3. 546 pounds of breaking strength Knots and splices will reduce the breaking strength of a line by as much as 50 to 60 percent.572 X 900 = 2. have different breaking strengths and safe working loads. Line Material Nylon Dacron Polypropylene Comparison Factor (greater than manila) 2.Each type of line. Natural breaking strength of manila line is the standard against which other lines are compared. To convert use the following formula. However. The basic breaking strength factor for manila line is found by multiplying the square of the circumference of the line by 900 lbs.4 Using the example above.
American Boat and Yacht Council Safe Working Load (in pounds) 3 strand twisted line and single braid line Diameter 1/4 5/16 3/8 1/2 Circumference 3/4 1 1 1/8 1 1/2 Manila 120 160 216 424 Nylon 182 281 407 704 Dacron 182 281 407 704 Polypropylene 213 232 459 714 . wears. Next we will discuss safe working load. The American Boat and Yacht Council has published charts of safe working loads for various types of line and are outlined below. Just being able to calculate breaking strength doesn’t give one a safety margin. However. stiffness or hardness are found the line should not be used. excess dirt. You should never stress a line anywhere near its breaking strength. The breaking strength formula was developed on the average breaking strength of new line under laboratory conditions. Should the line part. Marlinespike . you don’t know if that particular piece of line was above average or below average. Safe working load is generally thought of as no more than 1/5th of a line’s breaking strength. Important: Do not allow anyone to stand in line with. You should always choose a line with its intended safe working load in mind. You are not expected to memorize the tables below but you should remember this 5 to 1 safety rule. subjected to great heat or ultraviolet light for long periods of time it will continually loose some of its strength. the breaking strength should be five times the weight of the object the line is going to hold. loads of many times the recommended working load.Rope Safe Working Load Knowing the maximum safe working load for line can help prevent accidents and tragedies. of a line under tension. a splice is stronger than a knot. As line is spliced. Each line should be inspected prior to using it in extreme load conditions and if chafe. the recoil force may cause serious injury.slice. is subjected to sustained loads. cut or worn strands. shock loads. Said another way. or within 45 degrees on either side. Without straining the line until it parts. stretched.
Terminology .5/8 3/4 7/8 1 2 2 1/4 2 3/4 3 704 864 1232 1440 1144 1562 2200 2750 1100 1375 1980 2420 1054 1445 1955 2380 American Boat and Yacht Council Safe Working Load (in pounds) Double braided line Diameter 1/4 5/16 3/8 1/2 5/8 3/4 7/8 1 Circumference 3/4 1 1 1/8 1 1/2 2 2 1/4 2 3/4 3 Nylon 420 680 960 1630 2800 3600 5300 6260 Dacron 350 560 750 1400 2400 3000 4800 5600 Marlinespike .
wrapping twine or tape around two lines to bind two parts of line side by side laying smaller line in the spiral grooves (with the lay) between line strands winding strips of canvas over. A loop formed by folding the rope back on itself a loop formed around a post. and in the same direction as. This splice has 6 strands in the cross section and is thick and may not run through a block the strand of one line replaces the strand of the other line. Don’t confuse with faking. worming a circle of rope made by bringing two parts of the rope together without crossing them over each other weaving strands of a line to itself or to a second piece of line The part of the rope between the end and the standing part. rail. and it is weaker than the short splice winding small line against the lay and over worming and parcelling to protect line from chafe and water damage to make a Flemish coil by taking the end of a line and laying it in a tight flat spiral on the deck. The size of line is kept the same however. or the line itself .the free end of a line Bitter end: the longer part of a line which is fixed during the tying of a knot Standing part: Bight: Turn: a circle of rope made by crossing the rope over itself Crossing Turn: Loop: Splice: wrapping twine or tape around line to line’s end to prevent unraveling Whipping: Seizing: Worming: Parcelling: Serving: Flemish: Faking: Flaking: Short splice: Long splice: the strongest way to connect two lines. Used to "tidy" up and keep line neat laying a line on deck in a series figure eights so the line will run free without tangling laying out line on deck in parallel rows.
usually for storing. Coil: Eye: .it like the short splice has a cross section of 6 strands and may not be able to be pulled through a block A loop made in the end of a rope either by knotting.stronger than any knot in forming a loop in a line Eye splice: a metal or plastic form inserted in the eye splice to prevent chafe Thimble: Back splice: splicing a line back on itself to prevent unraveling . seizing or splicing. Rope made into a neat series of loops or circles.
Twisted rope should be put into round coils. and flemishing any lose ends on deck or dock. turn and serve the other way. They’ll kink. especially because it’s also safer.Worming. Marlinespike . Get into the habit of coiling your lines when they are not in use.Line Handling and Stowing Neatness counts. while stepping on a flemished line is like stepping on a mat. It also protects your lines from unnecessary (and unsafe) wear and tear and helps preserve the lay of twisted rope. There is a good reason for this (besides looking good): stepping on a loose line can be like stepping on a marble. However. parcelling and serving are words left over from the old days when most line was made of manila. Don’t throw lines in heaps about the boat. Right-laid rope. Remember this rule: Worm and parcel with the lay. tangle or jam when you need them and you and your passengers are likely to trip over them. as most twisted . you may see these words used in the USCG exam. The purpose is to prevent chaffing of the line and keep water out to control rot.
while left-laid rope should be wound counter-clockwise. Take the loop over the top of the coil and pull the free end to fasten. Another method better suited for storing the line in a rope locker is to double the end of the completed coil to form a long loop. The free end should hang slightly longer than the coil so it can be located quickly. should be wound clockwise. Stowing the line Take three or four feet of line from the back of the coil and make three turns around the coil. Pass the free end through the newly created loop. Pass the loop. make sure the free end hangs down a bit so it can be located quickly. passing the end of the loop under its own midsection. . Braided rope has no preferred direction and often loops into figure eights naturally. around the head of the coil. Pass a loop of the free end through the top of the coil. Take another turn around the coil to the left of the first one and tuck the end of the loop under this second turn. This will also run out smoothly. Again. Pull tight so that the end of the loop stands free and can be used as a hanger. in a clockwise turn.rope is. Preserving the lay of the rope in this way will make for line that coils easily and plays out smoothly.
. Don't leave knots in a stowed line for long periods of time. can be a lethal weapon if it. The line will recoil with a force that can cause serious injury and/or damage. dirt. if you are planning to take the USCG license exam you will not be expected to actually tie knots. Prolonged exposure to rust. clean. or within 45 degrees on either side. To clean rope.Knots to Know As mentioned earlier. however. Dry completely before storing. Keep your lines in good condition. fails. Following is a graphic that you may see when taking the exam and you will be asked to identify the different knots pictured. Tying knots or hitches in the same place often will cause that part of the line to weaken. Occasionally switch the line ends (like rotating your tires) and try to tie knots and hitches in different areas of the line. you will find several questions concerning the names of knots and their intended use.Tips . Chafing (repeated rubbing of an area of the rope against an abrasive surface) will greatly weaken the line and make it unable to bear strain. replace them when worn and always monitor lines under stress. Protect the line from chafing by sliding a snug plastic tube over the area that comes in contact with a dock or other surface. sturdy material. cover the surface with a smooth. especially nylon line. unfrayed. Any stiff or hard lines should be replaced. or what it is attached to. Alternatively. Marlinespike . of a line under stress. Do not allow anyone to stand in line. . Whichever lines you choose to use make sure they are kept out of the sun when not in use. dry and coiled neatly. sand or mud deteriorates rope. A line under tension. . scrub it with a solution of liquid soap and water.
Thanks to Robert Kibitz for noticing this! E: Timber hitch and half hitch: used for hauling timbers. not a square knot as it is identified in the text. Knot W. . G: Fisherman’s bend AKA anchor bend: used to tie a rode to the anchor. is a thief knot. F: Round turn and two half hitches: use to permanently tie up to a piling. as illustrated. Coast Guard exam prep materials.S.This illustration was taken directly from the U.
Can come loose unless it is followed by a half hitch.Useful Knots and Hitches for Boaters . K: Sailmaker’s whip: requires a sailmaker’s needle. R: Double sheet bend: used to secure two lines of different diameters. Used to form a temporary loop in a line. Marlinespike . N: Stopper: a length of line attached to running with a rolling hitch in order to relieve strain on the running rigging. I: Bowline on a bight: used for rescuing a person by putting a leg though each loop if conscious or if unconscious put both legs through one loop and the chest and arms through the other. S: Blackwall hitch: used to attach a line to cargo hook. W: Square knot AKA reef knot: used to connect two lines of different diameters. P: Rolling hitch: used for fastening a line to a spar.: Double blackwall hitch: for attaching a line to a cargo hook. V: Marline hitch: used to lash canvas to a spar. O: Barrel hitch: for lifting barrels. Won’t slip or jam under strain. X: Clove hitch: use to temporarily attach a line to a piling. J: Plain whipping: a quick way to whip the end of line.H: Becket or sheet bend: used to tie lines of different sizes together. Q: Bowline: the king of knots. T: French bowline: used like a bowline on the bight for rescue. M: Carrick bend: for connecting two large hawsers. L. U: Half hitch: a turn of line around an object with the bitter end led back through the bight.
here it is. This knot won’t slip or jam and can be untied easily. It is used to form a temporary loop in a line which may then be put over a piling or cleat. The bowline is a very versatile knot.Bowline Anchorbend Sheepshank Cleat Hitch Clove Hitch Round Turn & 2 Half Hitches Bowline ."The Boater's King of Knots" If you're only going to learn one knot this season. It can also be used to attach a line to an eye. .
Anchorbend (aka Fisherman's Bend) For securing a line to an anchor or buoy. Bring the working end down and behind the standing part. .Hitches .Marlinespike . Bring the working end down and behind the standing part. Pass the working end of the line through a ring from front to back to form a round turn. Bring it over the standing part and through the round turn to form a half-hitch around the standing part.
Then bring the working end over the front of the standing part and under itself to form another halfhitch. Tighten the knot by pulling on the working end and the standing part. .
or to form a more permanent hitch. Pull the left center crossing (L) through the middle of the left crossing turn from the front.To make it more secure.Hitches . Seizing is a method of binding two pieces of rope side by side. while pulling the right center crossing (R) through the middle of the right crossing turn from behind. The worn area must be in the center turn of the knot so that the tightened outer turns bear the weight. the short working end can be seized to the standing part. . Pull on the loops you just formed and then on the standing parts so that the outer crossing turns tighten around the loops.Sheepshank A sheepshank can be used to shorten a length of rope or to take the strain off a worn area of rope. Start with three crossing turns that are all in the same direction. Marlinespike .
Take one wrap around the base of the cleat and then start a figure eight across the top of the opposite ear. and certainly more decorative. .Hitches .This knot will only hold when strain is applied to the standing ends. the outer crossing turns will loosen and the knot will fall apart. Finish with a half hitch turned under so that the line is coming away from the cleat in the opposite direction from which it came in. Sheepshank Man o' War More secure. this version starts with four overlapping crossing turns (all in the same direction). If the line becomes slack. Marlinespike . than the sheepshank.Cleat Hitch Take the line to the ear of the cleat furthest from where the line comes from (the load). Pull the right center strand (R) through the right outer turn from back to front and the left center strand through the left outer turn from front to back.
Clove Hitch Used to temporarily tie to a piling.Marlinespike . You may add a couple of half hitches to make it more permanent.Hitches . . this knot can come loose. This knot is simply two loops with an end tucked under.
If you can reach the top of the piling. . an alternative way to tie a clove hitch is to follow the instructions below and then slip the loop over the piling and tighten.
mooring or ring.Marlinespike .Round Turn & Two Half Hitches Used to permanently tie to a piling. Take a full turn around the object being tied to and take two half hitches around the line itself. .
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