How to Choose the Best Marine Rope for Anchoring, Docking and Towing
Ever stop to think about how much you use marine rope in your boating life? Between docking, anchoring, sailing and towing, marine rope wears a bunch of hats in the boating world. Without it, we'd drift aimlessly about with no wind in our sails (literally, because you gotta have rope for sails). Whether you have a sailboat,pontoon boat, deck boat or cabin cruiser,marine rope is the one common piece of gear all boaters need. But what makes marine rope (or line) different than any other rope? How do you know whether you want a rope that floats as opposed to one that sinks? (Yes, there are needs for both types in the boating world.)
Characteristics of Marine RopeYou can't (or at least you shouldn't) use just any old rope around water, salt and other outdoor elements. Whether you have a sailboat, trawler or canal boat, you'll want to take a few minutes to learn the important characteristics to look for when choosing marine rope.
- Waterproof It's no secret that the biggest feature to consider when choosing marine rope is that it's waterproof. Even if it doesn't come into direct contact with water, the fact that it's being used on a boat makes the waterproof aspect a necessary factor.
- Strong and durable Strength and durability go without saying (but I'm going to say it anyway). Salt and water can wear down the toughest fibers, and when you're trusting it to secure your boat, tow your kids and keep your sailboat sailing, you want it to be the best.
- Floats For towing (water skiing, tubing and wake boarders), you'll want a marine rope that floats. This makes it easy for the rider to find and grab onto if they fall off.
- Sinks While seemingly counteractive to the previous characteristic, there are some boating tasks where you need the rope to sink. Namely, for anchor lines.
- Stretches Dock lines require a stretchable rope. This allows them to sway with the boat as the water moves. If rope is too tight, it can rip or cause your boat to slam into the side of the dock during high wind and inclement weather.
Types of Marine RopeSailboats, in particular, use a lot of rigging and rope that's not needed in power boating. Here are just a few types of marine rope that sailors know well:
- Docking Rope
- Anchor Rope
- Tow Rope
- Sailing Rope
Color-Coded Marine RopeOne cool,useful feature about sailing rope is that it's often color-coded. In the sailing world, there are standard color codes to distinguish the use and length of rope. Although you can really apply any color to any line of your personal vessel (so long as you member what the codes stand for), here are the standard color-coded lines:
- White Mainsail sheet and halyard lines
- Blue Jib/genoa line
- Red Spinnaker
- Green Guys
- Black Vangs and travelers
Marine Rope Flecks and TracersAlso, ever notice how some marine rope has specks of different colors? It's called a "fleck"when there's an extra bit of color in the rope like a white rope with flecks of blue. When there's more than one color, like a white rope with red and blue, the term tracers is used. The flecks are used to indicate length or depth.
Marine Rope Materials and FibersYou'll find that several synthetic and natural fibers go into the construction of marine rope. Consider your budget and what you'll use the rope or lines for when making a decision.
- Nylon, which is moderately priced, offers shock absorption and UV and wear resistance. It's very strong and is often used for dock and anchor lines. It does shrink a bit when wet.
- Polyester is strong, has low stretch and is quite durable. It's also moderate in price. It can be used for anchor lines.
- Polypropylene is lightweight, very stretchy and almost as strong as nylon. Since it floats, it's a good choice for tow ropes. On the negative side, it's not very UV resistant and melts at low temperatures. It's quite affordable, so buying a new tow rope every season isn't too bad of a deal.
- Kevlar,also known by names such as Technora, is incredibly strong, has low stretch and doesn't rust. It's used for mooring lines on ships and oil rigs, as well as in sailing rigging. Marine rope made with Kevlar often has a polyester cover over the Kevlar/Technora core.
Marine Rope ConstructionIn addition to the various types of marine rope fibers, there are a couple of ways marine rope is constructed, including braided, twisted and with a parallel core.
Braided Marine RopeYou'll find two types of braided marine rope single and double-braided. Single-braided marine rope has a flexible construction that doesn't kink or twist. It's used on sailboat main sheets and large dock lines. Double-braided rope has a braided core and a braided cover. It's easy to handle and is strong and durable. It's used in running rigging and dock lines.
3-Strand Twist Marine Rope3-strand twist rope is just what it sounds like a twist of three strands. It's flexible, durable and long-lasting. It doesn't harden with age, and is used for anchors, running rigging, and dock, mooring and tow lines.
Parallel Core Marine RopeMarine rope with a parallel core means it has a unidirectional fiber core with a braided cover. It has less stretch but lots of strength. You can use it for halyards, sheets and anywhere you need a low stretch marine rope.
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