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DOUBLE BRAIDED ROPE
8 & 12 STRAND ROPE
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ONLINE SHOP WWW.SYDNEYROPESUPPLIES.COM.AU
Other than the loss of sustainability, there are many
reasons to celebrate the end of natural fibre ropes not
least amongst them being the way synthetic rope-ends
can be terminated within minutes using extreme heat (hopefully
without scorching your fingers).
The old days of whipping rope ends with twine or yarn that
eventually frees itself and leaves a mass of whiskers in its wake
was frustrating and time consuming. So too was the certain
knowledge that the only way to restore the situation was to cut
back and re-whip the end, knowing darn well that you’re wasting
time and will ultimately finish up with less rope.
The death of natural fibre rope was a sad time for those
traditionalists to whom whipping was an art form practised with
love and affection. They have every reason to lament the end of
Manila, made from rot resistant Philippine banana plants, as well
as Cannabis sativa (Hemp), despite its need to be protectively tarred.
And even those poor deluded souls who loved Coir rope,
made from coconut husks, lament the fact that it was the only
natural rope that floated, thus preventing a dinghy’s painter
from sinking around its host’s propeller when going astern.
Unfortunately, this marvellous characteristic was offset by Coir’s
reputation for easily snapping, thereby setting the dinghy free
whether going astern or not.
Fire whipping is hardly new technology, having been practised
by sailors around the world for at least sixty years. What might
be new to some folk, however, is the problem of pushing a bulky,
hardened rope-end through its designated block, which is what
this discourse is all about.
As illustrated, fire whipping is done in four acts:
1. the rope end is softened with a king size match or gas burner;
2. the rope end is immediately plunged into cold water;
3. the softened end is shaped by rolling it between wet fingers
The electrical product heat shrink is a good way to finish off a
fire whip and by using different colours ropes become instantly
4. a tough, durable
rope-end is formed that
is no fatter than the rope itself,
thereby guaranteeing its ability to
enter and exit a block.
The trick with this system is to have a
container of water on standby to wet the hands
and act quickly because the period of softening is very brief.
If your rejection of traditionalism is particularly strong, a
fire whipped rope-end can be finished off by fully sheathing it
in heat-shrink, a soft, tubular product intended for electrical
application but very useful for lazy sailors. Just like traditional
whipping, heat shrink eventually falls off, but not as often and
hopefully not into the sea. With a number of different colours
available, heat shrinking is a means of identifying their host’s
purpose in moments of stress at sea.
By comparison, hot-knife rope cutting offers little to no
creativity and is entirely devoid of robust challenge. Also, hot-
knifed ends cannot be shaped because the minimal mass of
molten plastic cools too quickly and leaves the fibres prone to
My personal path from rigid traditionalism started early, in
Mosman Bay, when a die-hard old salt invited me aboard his
Tahiti ketch. Although my own vessel was draped in natural fibres
at the time, nothing prepared me for the tarred hemp used in his
deadeyes and lanyards, nor the Stockholm tar coating his masts.
These I innocently grabbed to climb aboard, coating my
hands in tar and thereafter being unable to shake hands, hold a
cup of tea, touch any part of his yacht or even scratch myself. On
returning to my own boat I washed myself, oars and everything
I might have touched with turpentine before leaping over the
side for a final degreasing.
The miracle of that overly traditional ketch was that his wife
managed to emerge fresh, spotlessly clean and immaculately
dressed every morning to catch her ferry to work. She was a
modern lady living in her husband’s past somehow surviving
by – presumably – not touching anything. h
by Alan Lucas
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