Kevlar and pre-stretched polyester nautical rope has allowed owners to change to rope halyards, replacing the wire halyard/ rope tail. [ Kevlar-based polyester braids ] have minimal stretch, but Kevlar does not hold up to repeated kicking in the same spot, such as over a halyard sheave. Kevlar boat line is used primarily in dinghies, keelboats and cruiser racers of up to 15 metres.
Conventionally laid, [ 3-strand, super-stretched polyester ] line is popular with yacht racer owners because there is minimal sheave abrasion and can be spliced easily. [ Sixteen-plait multibraid over a 3-strand core ] is the ideal combination for spinnaker and genoa halyards. Although you can splice it yourself, it is often better to get a rigging specialist to splice multiplait, especially if it is joined to Kevlar or wire tails.
One of the prime requirements of nautical rope when used as sheets, is a high resistance to the abrasion caused by running through blocks and around winches and being dragged around shrouds. In use, sheets develop a slightly 'furry' finish, which helps them to resist abrasion and improves their grip on winches and jamming devices.
It is important that sheets have a sufficient diameter to enable the crew member to have a comfortable grip when taken under load.
This is one of the reasons why dinghy rigs use a thin Kevlar sheet to run through the blocks then splice it on a 10 to 12mm diameter braided tail leading back to the helmsman or crew.
Cruising yachts are at sea for longer periods than racers, which adds up to considerably more wear on all sheets. For these boats' sheets, 16-plait matt finish polyester over a 3-strand core provides the required strength and longevity. Dayboats and dinghies use [ 8-plait polyester and lightweight multifilament polypropylene ] for most running lines.
Yachts have many different types of ropes onboard, from light line up to heavy mooring and anchor warps. Nautical ropes on yachts are larger and heavier than those used on dinghies and are more complicated to handle because of their extra weight and length. Each one requires handling in a way determined by its size and purpose.
Rope work requires becoming skilled at knot tying as well as coiling, cleating, stowing, and heaving these larger boat ropes as these skills are critical when mooring. Practice to complete these tasks swiftly and efficiently in all sailing conditions, especially in the dark.
Rope work requires practicing knot tying basic knots and handling skills so that they become second nature. Ensure ropes are coiled and stowed to avoid snarling, and on no account leave mooring line scattered around the deck or pontoon where they could become a tripping hazard. Once a year wash all boat ropes to remove salt, sand and grease. Sand cuts the rope fibres and salt hardens them making it more difficult to handle.
The deckhand makes sure the decks are tidy. A mass of tangled rope on the cockpit floor is dangerous, and they must never trail over the side. Always coil rope by the tail end immediately after making up a sheet or a halyard on a cleat. So that twists in the rope will roll out, start to coil from the end that is made fast and work towards the free end. Starting to coil rope from the falling end, puts twists into the rope. Never coil around the hand and elbow, as this method causes twists in the rope. From one hand, hang even loops of rope, giving it a twist with each loop.
To distinguish how boat ropes are laid and how to coil them, hold the rope vertically and if the strands move upwards to the right they are said to be right-handed and are coiled clockwise; left-handed are coiled anti-clockwise.
When the rope is a sheet or a warp, lay the completed coil flat on the deck so that the tail is underneath with the uppermost coils free to run out when released. A coiled halyard is held fast by hanging the coil on the cleat by twisting one of the coils and making a loop. A halyard when coiled this way is re-coiled before it is let go, ensuring it runs out smoothly.
Bulky boat ropes such as a mooring warp should be coiled on deck and as each coil is made, twist the rope clockwise. The complete coil is `stopped' using thin twine before stowed.
A common method of securing a coil is the `sea gasket' coil. After making the coil, four or five turns are wrapped with the standing part about the upper part of the coil. A bight of the standing part is pulled through the coil above the turns and looped back over the head of the coil holding it together.
To prevent disorder occurring, avoid leaving halyards hanging loose and sails in a mess on deck. To ease tension on the halyard, first check it away by keeping a turn on the cleat, or ease it around the winch with the flat of the hand. After some rope length the tension will lessen then let it go more quickly. When able, throw the turns off the winch and pay out the halyard hand over hand. The tail of the halyard should be permanently made fast which stops it vanishing up the mast, or blowing out in the wind.
Avoid letting the halyard slide quickly through hands as this can cause a painful burn. When a rope jerks free, stand clear and if possible find the tail end, turning it around a cleat holding it in check.