When working with ropes the following should be borne in mind at all times:

  1. Never lead a rope around a sharp bend or over an edge. The chaffing action will quickly wear away the rope and cause it to part. To minimise this, always lead the rope around a smooth, rounded surface or preferably around a roller lead.
  2. Avoid knots in the middle of a rope, rather splice the ends together.
  3. Stow all ropes out of the sun, otherwise they will deteriorate. They should be covered over when not in use and stored on pallets to increase air circulation and allow moisture to drain away.
  4. Avoid spilling any chemicals, paint or fuel over them.
  5. Do not exceed the ropes safe working load (SWL).
  6. When running a rope through a block, ensure that the sheave has a larger diameter than the ropes.
  7. All ropes (natural or synthetic fibre) must be looked after and inspected regularly for cuts, worn or melted patches or signs of discolouration which indicate chemical deterioration. Corroded lines will part more easily and will not take much strain as well cared for ropes. If the fibres in the strands start breaking or there are places where the rope has melted, due to being subjected to great strain and has slipped on the bitts, take careful note and if it starts spreading, condemn the rope.
  8. In the case of polypro ropes, note if powdering is starting, since this is a clear sign of deterioration.
  9. Inspect splices to see if they are drawing.
  10. All ropes when not in use should be coiled up neatly immediately after being used, not just dumped in a heap, as this lessens the chance of a crew member tripping over it. When under way and especially if the weather is bad, all ropes should be secured, otherwise a rope could get washed overboard and perhaps get fouled up in your or someone else’s propellers.
  11. Right handed rope must always be coiled down clockwise, and vice versa.
  12. The running/working end of a rope must always be on the top of the coil.
  13. Large ropes come in coils. To uncoil one, cut away the outside lashings but not the outside covering. Then pull the rope out of the coil from the centre.
  14. When a rope is cut, put a whipping around both ends and cut between them. In an emergency a knot will do temporarily.
  15. Nothing looks worse or more unseamanlike than a “horse’s tail”. Even with a synthetic rope, put a whipping around it and then melt the very end, just in case the melted part breaks up. When the end is going to get a lot of wear, put in a back splice.
  16. Three stranded ropes should be coiled down in a clockwise direction as they are normally laid up clockwise. Multi stranded/plaited rope can be coiled down in any direction.
  17. Despite the fact that synthetic ropes do not rot when stowed away wet, they should still be coiled away off the deck as far as possible, as this enables the rope to dry out. A dry rope is always easier and more pleasant to work with than a wet rope. Natural fibre ropes must be stowed away on a grating to dry out and to keep them from getting wet when the decks are washed down.
  18. When sending out a tow line or a long headline, always make sure that the crew flake the line out beforehand. This enables the line to run smoothly without it catching underneath another coil. It also enables the line to be kept under control and makes it easier to take a turn when necessary.
  19. Condemned ropes are not to be used for lifting purposes, ie
    • When the strands are fraying.
    • When the strands are cut.
    • The rope has been rotted by acids or alkalis.
    • If the rope has been affected by mildew.
    • If the rope has been affected by the sun.
    • The rope has been overloaded (stretched).
    • The rope has ben badly chaffed.
    • The rope is knotted.
    • Some of the strands are becoming unlaid.
  20. Be able to recognise when a mooring line is being brought to near its breaking point. All ropes will “sing” before parting. This gives anyone who is close to it a chance to move out of the snap-back zone. Different ropes emit different noises, ie
    • Natural ropes such as manila, sisal or coir will creak and squeak.
    • Terylene, polypropylene, etc will creak.
    • Wire will sing or crack. The wire strands may start parting and the rope could start unravelling extremely quickly.
    • Nylon will not emit any noise at all until it parts. The line will keep stretching and getting thinner until it parts with a loud crack.