Sailing ropes or sailing lines?

The lines used in sailing are called sheets or ropes, and each sheet refers to the sail it controls. For example, when you trim the mainsail, you use the mainsheet. In this sense, there are other lines or sailing ropes that are used to regulate the sails, such as the cunningham or the kicker. In the world of boats and sailing, rope is simply the term given to the raw material used to make ropes, being nothing more than a rope that contributes in some way to the smooth running and navigation of the yacht.

So why does it seem so difficult to understand? The complexity arises from the fact that there are more than a hundred lines on the larger sailing vessels. In fact, some of these do not even have the word “rope” in their name.

There are differen categories of ropes and lines that can be found in classic sailboats: halyards, sheets, lashing ropes, warps, whips and spars, and they hide many other titles that make clearer the function they perform, such as jib halyard, spinnaker halyard or halyards, among others.

Below we will look at seven types of sailing ropes that can be found on sailboats:

The Bell Rope

The most common rope on a sailing boat is the bell rope. Its main function is to strike the clapper, a metal piece, against the side of the bell, producing the characteristic sound.

The Bolt Rope

The next most commonly used sailing rope is the bolt rope. This line is hidden at the front of the head-sail, as it is covered by a fold of canvas. Its main function is to create a straight and taut leading edge on the sail. This is especially important when it is a sail that is not mounted on a fore stay. The name “bolt rope” refers to the fact that the sail canvas is folded over this sailing rope, creating a fold of fabric known as a “bolt”.

The Tow Line

The towline, also known as the towline, is another important line on a classic vessel. Although it is expected to be needed infrequently, its purpose is to tow another vessel when necessary. Short tow ropes are at risk of breaking if subjected to excessive strain. It is therefore preferable to use a longer line, as it provides more elasticity and ensures a smoother tow for both the towing and the towed vessel.

The Foot-rope or Bottom Liner

The foot rope is a line that is placed under the arms of a spar on the mast. Its function is to provide a place where sailors can place their feet while working aloft and furling sails. By walking or standing on the foot sailing rope, seafarers can maintain their balance and perform their tasks more safely and efficiently.

The Man-rope or strobes

The strobes or man ropes refer to two ropes that are dropped on either side of a rope ladder that is characteristic of larger sailing ships. These auxiliary sailing ropes usually help people to get on and off a ship, especially pilots and other visitors. By providing additional grip and stable support, they facilitate safe movements across the rope ladder.

Upper Cape or Head-rope

The head-rope is used to hoist the topsails, such as the topsail or topmast. This line is used to hoist and secure the sails at the top of the mast, as well as being crucial in ensuring that the sails are properly set and remain taut during sailing.

Heeling line

The heeling line is used to lower the topsails, such as the topsail sheet or the topmast. This sailing rope allows controlled lowering of the sails, ensuring safe and orderly handling during the furling process. When the heeling line is released and lowered, the sails are folded in a controlled manner, preventing sudden movements or damage to the vessel.

To sum up, these are the seven main lines found on sailing classic yachts. Not all ships have them, and it is rare to see them all together. However, each of them plays a vital role in sail handling and the overall operation of the vessel. By understanding their function and location, navigators can communicate accurately and work effectively in navigation and sailboat maintenance.