Splice and Dice

Hey-oh! Ryan here. As Chris mentioned recently, things are coming together over at the boatyard, and Firefly looks like she’s wearing her Sunday best. All she needs now is her mast. Let’s see one of those photos again:

Chris got the shiny new standing rigging all hooked up to the mast and then informed me that I would have to learn to splice double-braided line so we could get the running rigging ready to go. You’ll recall that we picked up some nice, new lines in Annapolis to use for our halyards. Thing is, one end of those is supposed to have a loop in it so that a shackle can fit through there to hold on to the sail. At least, that’s my understanding of how it all works. Ours had no such loops.

Anyways, Chris thought that since I recently picked up crocheting, splicing would come easily to me. He thankfully thought to buy a cheaper line for me to practice on before I had to try on the real things.

We sat down together after dinner one day last week to try to learn. We pulled up some instructions online, and were immediately confused. First off, we kept seeing the word “Fid” everywhere. We didn’t know if it was a unit of measurement, if it was short for something, or if it was a proper noun. Also, there were lots of steps involved and the written instructions just didn’t cut it.

Thankfully, we found this video demonstration put together by New England Ropes:


This guy clearly knows his stuff and explains everything he does. I found it to be relatively easy to understand and then replicate.

The first thing we realized is that a “Fid” is a splicing tool, and that you definitely need one. They come in different sizes for the different sizes of line. We bought two (West Marine had several), one that was the size of the cheaper practice line (7/16”), and the other that was the size of the halyard lines (3/8”). To me, they kind of look like little tin whistles. They’re hollow, and one end is pointy. The pointy end goes through the middle of the braided rope, and then pulls another part of the line through the braid.

I also bought a “pusher,” which I now call a “poo-shah,” after the way the splicer guy in the video pronounces it.

I think it probably took almost an hour to do the first practice splice, but it turned out ok. In a nutshell, double braided rope consists of a cover and a core. You pull the core out of the cover and then kind of weave both parts into each other. You cut and taper bits here and there so that at the end, when you pull really hard on everything, the cover slips back over the core so it all looks pretty and uniform.

Whoever figured out how to do this to begin with was a total genius.

I was pretty excited with my first little bit of success, but still nervous about using my new skills on the real deal.

But, with Chris’s help, I successfully spliced one end of each of our three halyards (main, jib, spinnaker), and those are now resting peacefully on the mast, with the rest of the rigging. I think it took about 2 hours to splice the 3 halyards. I only had trouble with the last one, and that’s because I got cocky and skipped a little ahead in the video… only to realize I had missed one tiny step (re-taping the end of the line), which caused issues later in the process.

I’m pretty proud of my halyards (yes, they are now “mine”).

We’re all ready on our end for Firefly’s launch, however, disappointingly, the boatyard is not. Their hydraulic trailer thingie is currently out of order, which means there is no way to get the boat from point A (boatyard) to point B (marina slip/water). So, we patiently wait!


7 thoughts on “Splice and Dice

  1. Excellent! Splice up all of your 3 strand dock lines w/ New England Ropes or Samson. Easy and cheaper than buying pre-spliced. On the other end of the spectrum is the complicated 12 strand splice. 12 strand is great for the main sheet.
    If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend, Hervey Garrett Smith’s “Arts of the Sailor” It’s filled with timeless information and really gets the boat looking proper. I like the paperback. It’s great to have on board. http://www.amazon.com/The-Arts-Sailor-Illustrated-Edition/dp/1614273073
    Another book of his, “The Marlinspike Sailor” is a must as well.
    Can’t wait to see Firefly in the water!

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