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A large number of different types of rope are used on board ship, and it is important for every
sailor to know their characteristics so that the right rope can be used for the right job. Ropes can be
divided into three basic types: natural fibre rope, which is made from the fibres of different plants;
synthetic fibre rope, which is made from materials such as nylon; and wire rope, which is made from
strands of steel wire.
First let us look at the different types of natural fibre rope. A well-known rope of this type is
Manila. Manila rope is made from the fibres of a plant which grows in the Philippine Islands of the
Pacific. It is strong and flexible, but rather expensive. It is used for a number of jobs connected with
cargo-handling and mooring. Because manila rope is expensive, sisal rope is often used in its place.
Sisal comes from a plant which grows in the USA and Russia. It is less strong and less flexible than
manila rope, but it is cheaper. It is used for moorings and lashings. Another type of rope is hemp
rope .Hemp comes from a plant which grows in Russia, Europe and North America as well as in China
and India. It is strong and flexible and does not shrink or swell after contact with water. Because of
this it is used on sailing boats. Coir ropes are made from coconut fibres. They are very buoyant and
very elastic, but they rot very easily when they are wet. They are sometimes used for mooring and
towing lines. The cotton plant grown in the southern part of North America. Cotton rope is both
strong and flexible, but it is very expensive and therefore not used on merchant ships. Because it looks
nice, it is often used on yachts and pleasure boats.
Natural fibre ropes have now largely been replaced by synthetic fibre ropes. Synthetic ropes
have many advantages. They are strong and elastic and they are resistant to the action of water. Nylon
rope is the strongest and the most elastic of all the synthetic fibre ropes. It is used for mooring and
handling cargo. Terylene rope has the highest melting point. It melts at a temperature of 260 C. It is
also strong and elastic. It is mainly used on yachts. Another type of synthetic fibre ropes is
polypropylene rope. It has the lowest melting point of all synthetic fibre ropes and is used for log lines
and halyards.
Wire rope is made of steel. It is usually galvanized to stop it from rusting. It is very strong and
elastic, but not as flexible as other types of rope. Large wire ropes are very heavy. Wire rope has many
uses on board ship, particularly for standing rigging, mooring lines and cargo-handling.
Mooring Ropes
A ship is made fast to the quayside by mooring line. The standard mooring lines are shown
below. They consist of a headline, a breastline and a backspring forward, a stern line, a breastline, and
a backspring aft. Any of these lines may be doubled. Each line has a large eye spliced in the end. The
eye is placed over a bollard on the quayside. If there is another line already on the bollard, the eye of
the second line should be taken up through the eye of the first line before placing it over the bollard.
This makes it possible for either line to be let go first.