We all have lines on our boats. Sailboats tend to have many more than motor yachts by virtue of their need to control their sails, but it’s important for motor yacht owners to pay attention to the condition of their lines. The las thing any skipper wants is for a line towing a tender to snap, or for the lines rafting two vessels together to come undone. Not to mention, purchasing new lines to replace your broken ones can be expensive.
First, make sure to keep your lines clean. Any substance buildup on a line can cause deterioration or stiffness. If you’ve ever tried to tie a quick cleat hitch with a super salty line, you know it sucks. You can easily clean your lines with a hose on the dock, or by throwing them in a bag and putting them through a gentle washing machine cycle. You should also shield your lines as much as possible from UV ray exposure: if it’s not needed to keep you attached to the dock or ready to depart, it should probably be stowed to prevent damage.
It’s also important to prevent your lines from kinking as much as possible, as kinking can lead to a weak spot where the line could break. When tying up at the dock, make sure to coil the excess line from your cleat hitches neatly (this is known as flemishing the line). Doing so not only shows that you know how to dock a boat, but also ensures that your lines stay out of the water and unkinked.
Next, it’s necessary to prevent lines that are under strain from chafing. Chafing can cause a line to break or heat up significantly. For example, when using lines passed through a chock in your transom to tow an object or vessel, a chafing guard (a tube of leather or plastic slipped over the line and positioned at a friction point) can prevent your lines from snapping at an inopportune moment.
Finally, taking care to inspect and maintain your lines regularly will keep them in service for years to come. If you see a problem with one of your lines, repair it using a whipping or splice if possible, and replace it if not. Remember: take care of your lines, and they’ll take care of you.