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Choosing ropes

I've a 60 foot steel narrowboat and its ropes (fore, aft and middle) are coming to the end of their natural lives and will need replacing in the next year.

WWW answered a question about ropes in the November 2008 issue of WWW, (page 95) but you did not say how to choose the rope itself.

Ignoring the "prettiness factor", what do I need to know to help me choose replacements? What material and what diameter (i.e. strength). How do I choose?

The WWW answer also said that the rope lengths (41 & 36 ft) for the 55' boat were "about right". I was under the impression that 60ft (20m) ropes (fore and aft) were usually required (and probably sensible) when river cruising - though pre-cut & spliced/eyed ropes seem to be sold as 10 or 15 m lengths.

Asked by: Paul Lawler  | 5.29pm, Monday 24 November

WW says:

The best type of rope is 'three strand laid' which is the traditional twisted type and can be spliced to form an eye. Braid on braid and 8-plait types are strong but do not look so appropriate on narrowboats and cannot be easily spliced

Most synthetic ropes are made from polypropylene but this can vary from the cheapest split split film variety to some that look like natural rope. Most chandlers' mooring lines are made from synthetic hemp which is fine. Narrowboats would normally need 14mm or 16mm depending on the size of the boat.

10 metres is a good length for a general purpose mooring line as it can be handled more easily than a longer one. Assuming you have a centre fixing point (as you do) you can hold a 60ft boat on the centre and front ropes while waiting for an uphill lock.

You may need something longer if you go onto a river. The lock into Gloucester docks requires a long rope to pass round the bollard and back onto the boat but this can usually be achieved by tying two ropes together temporarily.

For more information, see -


Graham Booth  | 11.31AM, Tuesday 25 November

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