Which Rope Should I Use?
Excerpted from Ocean
The guys at BoatUS know a lot
about rope—as skippers of their own boats and as
buyers specifying its construction. They know how it's
made, the best ways to use it, and which manufacturers
can be trusted to produce consistently high-quality rope.
They share their expertise with us...
Lines for All Boats
Standard and Premium Nylon:
For most docking and anchor lines, standard nylon is a fine
choice. It has great strength, “gives” under load
to absorb energy, and is relatively inexpensive. It's also easy
to handle and resists the harmful effects of sunlight better
than other synthetics.
Premium nylon is even stronger than standard
nylon, experiences far less breakage when subjected to repeat
stretching, and is preshrunk and coated with Seagard™
Marine finish for significantly improved abrasion resistance.
Treated rope lasts longer because there is less
friction between the fibers. We recommend premium nylon for
heavier weather docking and anchoring or when you want extra
Our BoatU.S. specifications for premium nylon
is comparable to all similar line, and resists repeated near-destructive
surges better than all we tested.
At 75% breaking strength (we suggest normal loading
should be no more than 25% breaking strength), our rope averaged
40 cycles before it finally parted —- eight times longer
than other ropes.
This means your lines will stay on duty even
when stressed well beyond the service intended, resisting big
wakes, strong winds, and other challenges.
Of course, chafing gear is still recommended.
But if it slips or wears through, you will want the best abrasion
Because polypropylene rope floats, it’s handy to have
around for multiple purposes such as tow lines and dinghy applications.
Made of synthetic fibers, polypropylene is almost as strong
as nylon but is considerably less resistant to the sun’s
Your boat’s running rigging is not the
place to economize. If you purchase quality rope designed for
a specific use, you’ll do more than improve your boat’s
performance: quality rope, properly cared for, can be used repeatedly
for progressively less demanding jobs, giving it a long and
With today’s new high-tech synthetic fibers
and advanced rope construction, you can buy rope that’s
10 times stronger than steel with extremely low stretch. Many
racers and cruisers have switched from wire to all-rope halyards;
others have also opted for high-strength, low-stretch, lightweight
ropes for their running rigging.
All-rope halyards have several advantages over
wire. Hand-over-hand hoisting is much faster than cranking an
all-wire winch; it’s safer, too. Wire is hard on your
hands and gear. Rope is easier to splice, it won’t scrape
paint or anodizing from your mast, and you don’t have
to decide whether or not to rely on a worrisome rope-to-wire
splice. The primary disadvantages are that rope is thicker,
so it has more windage aloft (but half the weight!), and even
the ultra-lowstretch fibers elongate more than wire. Quality
rope costs more than wire but is easier to install, lasts longer,
and can be recycled in a less demanding capacity.
To avoid hassles out on the water, colour code
your lines so that they are easily identifiable to your crew.
For powerboaters, color coding can help distinguish the different
lengths of dockline.
Used for sheets and halyards. Long-wearing polyester is easy
on the hands and gives a good grip on winch drums, even when
Portland Yacht Braid
Easy to splice. It features a braided outer jacket as well as
a braided inner core for extra strength and abrasion resistance.
Portland is extremely flexible and runs more smoothly through
fairleads than spun braid.
A “fuzzy” textured Type 77 Dacron® sleeve over
a braided polyester core. Tends to be slightly larger in diameter
when not under load. Be sure to select a diameter that will
fit through blocks, eyes, and leads when the load is light.
Ultra Ultra Low Stretch™
The lowest stretch polyester double braid on the market, it’s
stronger, lighter, and more economical than wire. UULS features
a low helix braid of 100% polyester with a 24-carrier cover
that controls the core element. Nubby surface texture provides
good grip when wet or dry, and allows an easily performed splice.
Used for halyards, sheets, guys, and control lines where you
need higher strength and lower stretch than all-polyester lines.
Its core is a blend of Hoechst Celanese Vectran liquid crystal
polymer and Olefin. The sleeve is a tri-strand, abrasion-resistant
polyester filament. This combination results in a stronger line
that provides real holding power on winches and in stoppers.
A 100% Vectran double-braided core with a Maxijacket™
coating for ultimate performance. Braided jacket is 100% SeaGuard™
polyester for abrasion resistance. Very high strength, low stretch
will not creep like other high-tech fiber ropes.
Is the highest performance all-Kevlar® core double braid
on the market. It’s made for high-performance sail control
under big loads where strength is critical.
Is a unique double-braided rope that is pound-for-pound 10 times
stronger than steel, and has extremely low stretch for better
control. Its core is 100% Spectra fiber, impregnated with a
molecular-adhesion coating to enhance durability and to increase
bending fatigue life. The sleeve is smooth filament polyester
Vectrus Single Braid
Is 100% Vectran single braid with a coating to enhance abrasion
and UV resistance.
Is ideal for spinnaker sheets. Spectra core with polypropylene
jacket. It has an above-average power-to-weight ratio, and it
won’t gain weight because it won’t absorb water.
It's used by Olympic and championship sailors worldwide because
it gives the highest strength and lowest stretch of any doubled-braided
Inspect lines for signs of pulls, loose areas
or serious abrasions before using them.
Chafing tape or chafe guards, as well as
swivels and shackles, help minimize abrasion caused by cleats,
chocks, and blocks.
The lower limit of the indicated working load
range should be used where life or limb is involved or for
exceptional service conditions such as shock loads. Never
exceed the listed working load range. If your rope is old
or worn, make additional allowances to assure safety.
Rope that is strong enough under a steady
strain can be broken with a sudden jerk, so never stand in
line with rope under tension. If the rope fails, it could
recoil with considerable force, especially if it's made of
Any rope will benefit from an occasional
bath in warm fresh water. The water lifts out dirt and makes
the rope more supple. Some skippers squirt a little fabric
softener in the water and then rinse the rope a second time.
This also helps to eliminate squeaking.
All rope is prone to UV deterioration when
exposed to the sun. Whenever possible, store rope out of the
sun and away from heat, chemicals, and moisture.
Store your rope on a reel or coiled to prevent
knots, kinks, and tangles that reduce strength.
Avoid kinks by padding sharp angles for safety.
Sharp angles greatly affect the strength of rope.
Reverse rope ends and alternate ropes to
prevent isolated wear and extend rope