Published: Jan 30 2019
Keeping a taut ship is a critical part of ensuring passenger, crew, and vessel safety while underway. This includes efficiently stowing lines. Line stowage is important on any type of vessel, but especially so on sailboats, simply because so many lines are used to operate the boat.
A rat’s nest of lines on a deck is an open invitation to trip-and-fall injuries, or worse, a Man Overboard. These situations can be easily avoided by ensuring that crew members know how to coil and stow lines. This article presents tips for coiling and stowing lines on both sail and powerboats.
Some words about rope and line: the word rope refers to manufactured material; once it is sized, spliced, or simply used onboard a vessel, it becomes line. Most line used on vessels is right-laid; the lay is determined by the direction of the twists as they progress away from an observer. On sailboats, some lines have other names; for example, those controlling sails are typically called sheets, and the line used to hoist a mainsail is the halyard. Understanding some terms relating to coiling lines might be a good place to start.
Coiling a line is a basic function and easy to learn. Start by holding a line end in one hand; form the line into about a two- or three-foot oval as it is brought to the other hand, and hold the collected line underhand. When about two or three feet remain to be coiled, make three turns around the upper part of the coil, wrapping counter-clockwise. Make a loop in the last 18 inches of line, and tuck it through the top of the coil above the three turns.
Gently pull the loose end to snug the loop against the wraps. The wrapped coil can be stowed and hung using the loose end at the top of coil. The free end of line should hang slightly longer than the coil so it can be located quickly.
To coil line with an eye, shackle, or heaving line monkey fist at one end, start the coil with the eye, shackle, or monkey fist hanging below the hand and form the coils as above.
Stowing lines adjacent to where they are usually set saves loads of time and stress. Some boaters use line holders, simple one- or two-inch wide plastic or canvas straps with a turnbuckle-like closure attached to the inside of the hull near bow, stern, or amidships cleats. To stow the line, it is coiled and fitted into the middle of the strap; the open end of the strap is secured around the line and attached to the hull with the closure. The straps are an inexpensive and easy way to ensure that the right lines are always available at docking points.
Many boaters combine time-tested techniques, personal preference, and creativity to identify and stow lines aboard a boat. Some suggestions are mentioned below.
Coiling line, just like line handling, is an acquired skill. A well-coiled line, conveniently stowed and available in a hurry, can help avoid inconvenience, injury, and vessel damage.