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Thursday, September 24, 2009

The arts of the sailor

One of the things I like best about owning a sailboat is having a good excuse to do lots of "sailor" stuff.  I'm not talking about reefing the main or hardening up the jib or any of that kind of stuff (although I like all that, too).  I'm talking about splicing rope and doing fancy ropework and tying knots and all THAT kind of stuff.  This isn't to say that powerboaters can't do all that nautical stuff, too, it's just probably not going to look as cool on their boats as it does on a more or less "traditional" looking sailboat.

One of my favorite sources for all things nautical is Hervey Garrett Smith:

Pictured here are one of his books as well as some of the cool stuff you get to use when performing sailorly arts.  Starting with the canvas bag located in the upper left corner and working clockwise: ditty bag, waxed sailmaker's thread, rigging knife, one of He
rvey's books,
a glass vial (protected by a Lulu-made cover) containing sailmaker's needles, a sewing awl, a sailmaker's palm, and a roll of tarred marline.  Now c'mon, just saying those things makes you sound downright nautical doesn't it?  Yarrrr!

One of our projects on our old boat, a J.R. Benford designed 23' ferrocement gaff-rigged double-ended yawl built by Dan Taylor of Bellingham (here's to ya', Dan!) was to build some fenders (too often called "bumpers") out of old manila rope.  Fenders hang off the side of the boat when alongside a dock or an
other boat to protect her topsides from scratches, scrapes, etc. They are usually hollow air-filled plastic sausages but could just as easily be made of old tires. However, one of the sailor's arts was making these out of old rope that was too worn to use but too good to throw away.  Fortunately for me, a 1992 copy of WoodenBoat magazine carried an article on how to make these devices.   Having left the full complement of rope fenders with the old boat when we sold her, Lulu thought we should really make a set for Siempre Sabado.  So, for Christmas a couple years ago she bought me a 250' roll of 3/4" manila line for the job. Since that time, I managed to find the time to build two of them.   So, a week or so ago, I showed her how to make them and she built 2 more.  We'll keep this up until we have 8 or so altogether.

Besides making the fenders themselves, I also got to make lanyards to hang them from.  This allowed me to make eye splices in some 3-strand line as well as do some whipping of the end of the line.  As Hervey says, an unwhipped line is an "abomination".

Although it's not as much fun, it's also necessary to splice double-braided line once in awhile.  This stuff can be a nightmare to work with and there's no way I can remember how to do an eyesplice without written instructions.  But, I'm replacing all of my running rigging and consequently making eyesplices is a must.  So, here's the result.  Not much chance that Brion Toss is going to hire me anytime soon, but I think this splice is at least acceptable.

On the horizon: baggywrinkle.  If you don't know what that is, here's a picture:

It's used to guard the sails from chafing against the shrouds, and the spreaders.  Happily, baggywrinkle is made from old pieces of manila line which we just happen to have plenty of as a result of making the fenders.


Mark said...

Love the manila fenders!

Anonymous said...

Do you have a lenth of 2X6 for tying up to pilings? I think you could take a couple of lenths of light line and use the bumpers. Take the middle of the line, go through the bumper to form a loop and slide the board in and pull the line tight. Some notch the board and some drill a hole through each end of the board. It will keep you off pilings very well. Beats using the rubber bumpers that screw into the wood. That takes up a lot of space. Ken

LittleCunningPlan.com said...

I love those! Have to get Mike a copy of that book. He has practiced splicing, and I tried my hand at it once. But I look forward to a time when I have hours to sit and work on things like that.