No Longer Pushing Rope

Hands are sensory organs, and the difference to the hand between old and new lines is emotional, encouraging, adventurous. A soft handful of control, thick enough to grip and pull, easy on the skin: that’s what our new lines mean to me. The rough stiffness of the old stuff didn’t run through blocks smoothly and required that we, literally, push the boom out by hand in anything but a near-gale. My hands shrank from grasping the old salty UV-degraded polyester which sucked the moisture from my skin across improbable gaps. It had been stretched beyond its ability to retain its original flexibility because, did you know?, when you cycle-load a rope or anything, really, with a pull-tight-release, pull-tight-release, it melts a little every time and becomes, eventually, brittle. And every little brittle point in each of the threads that make up the strands that are braided into the rope is a potential breakage, a tiny sliver protruding from the remaining structure. But oh, the new line! On SVSN Nomad, we invested in about 60 feet of Regatta Braid for our mainsheet, which had to run from the back of the boat to the back of the boom four times. When hauled in, there was a gorgeous coil of line hanging easily at hand. When let out for a downwind run, it eased through the hand and all four segments lengthened as the boom swung wide, until the four-part span arrested the eye. For SVSN Cetacea, we’ve gone all out. Soft, supple Regatta Braid for the mainsheet, for the staysail and yankee port and starboard sheets. Five lines, five eye splices, five lock-stitches and whippings. I had done the mainsheet while still in the motel room. It was a good project for that ridiculous place, but spreading my marlinspike tools around[…]

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