Boat Rope


Rope for docking, anchoring, and towing is an essential item on any vessel. However, it is often overlooked, both in the boat’s maintenance, and when it comes to selecting the right rope for the right job. The difference between a good, well-maintained rope and a shoddy, worn out line can mean putting yourself and your crew at serious risk of accident or injury.


Right from the off, you want to make sure you are using the right rope for the task at hand. Before you buy your line, you need to consider what you will be using the rope for. For example, on a sailboat, polyester rope will be perfectly adequate for most rigging purposes. It is strong, doesn’t offer much stretch and is pretty long-lasting. Nylon lines are often used for running anchors and docking because they offer great resistance with exceptional shock absorption capabilities, giving them the ability to handle strong wind and aggressive waves. Nylon also holds up well against UV damage, unlike other materials.

For towing water skiers or tubes off the back, polypropylene rope, or “yellow rope”, is the best option. It floats in the water and is strong but it will be affected by UV rays, which will weaken the construction over time. Ensure you check your polypropylene ropes regularly for signs of UV damage.

Then you have to consider the construction of the rope. Double braid features a braided core inside another braided cover. This makes them popular in running sail rigging and dock lines on smaller boats. Then there are parallel cores and single braids. Parallel cores offer almost no stretch and are very strong, making them ideal for halyards and sheets, while single braids are more supple and offer more flexibility, making them good for mainsheets. Finally, three-strand ropes have the ultra-durable construction that makes them well-suited to anchor lines, docking, mooring and towing.


Once every few months or so, or before you put the boat into storage, it is worth carrying out a thorough inspection of your vessel’s ropes. Untie any knot and look for signs of wear and tear. This includes signs of dry rot and fraying. Take a peek at the ends to make sure the braids are not unravelling.

On docking and anchor lines, the constant tension can often lead to increased wearing at one end. To avoid this, you can reverse the rope once every few months, or cut the rope back as soon as there are signs of damage.

Check all the parts of the boat that come into contact with your rope lines. Make sure there is nothing scratched or sticking out that could cause abrasion. Over areas of the rope that are prone to abrasion, you can prolong the life of your rope by attaching a sheath of garden hose or polyester to prevent the chafing from wearing the rope down.

Part of your rope maintenance procedure should involve the cleaning of all the lines on your vessel. Sea salt, dirt and rust all have abrasive properties if allowed to build up. You don’t need any chemicals or detergents to clean your lines. Just hose them down with fresh, clean water and brushed off to keep them at their best.


Storing your ropes correctly will also lengthen their life. When you are not using your rope, all knots and kinks should be removed and the rope should be coiled into a figure of eight. This will make it easier to grab in a hurry and the rope will come up quickly without any twists.

Keep all your ropes in optimum condition to minimise risk and keep everyone on board safe. Poorly-maintained ropes, or using ropes which are not fit-for-purpose can lead to costly accidents. Spending the time to properly care for and check your lines will save you money in the long run.


Do you have anything to add? Do you have any rope recommendations? Share in the comments section below.

John Steele

John loves cooking at home and outdoors, travelling, fishing and discovering a new life. He's got loads of experience he wants to share while he adventures through retirement.