What is the difference between a rope and a line?
You buy rope at a marine or hardware store. It can be synthetic like nylon and polypropylene or natural like hemp. It can be single braid or double braid. It can be white or colored or even multi-colored. It can be small (1/8”diameter) or large (2” dia.) It is all rope you buy for the boat for a variety of uses, once it gets on the boat it becomes “Line”. That is the only difference.
The end of the line tied to something on the boat or dock is called the “standing end” and the free end of the line is called the “bitter end”. The loops making up the circular coiled line lying on the deck or hanging from a hook is called a “bight”. Main safety rule: Never stand in the bight of a line, very dangerous!
When using the line to tie up the boat to the dock, there are often “cleats” on the boat and/or the dock to attach the lines. Cleats usually have a base with 2 horns extending out that the line is wrapped around to hold the boat in place. The line can be very effective when tied off correctly as shown in the drawing here. Simply wrapping the line around the cleat without creating a “locking hitch” doesn’t hold well. Dock lines or spring lines can be used to hold the boat fast to the dock. Spring lines prevent the boat from going forward or backward while dock lines hold the boat to the dock laterally. Click the link here to see the correct way to tie up lines to the cleats at the dock or “cleating”.
In seamanship, knots are very important and have several different applications. There are a few very common and useful knots and a few complicated knots as well. The best knots typically will hold fast and allow for a significant load, at the same time they will not tighten up therefore be untied reasonably easy. The bowline knot may be the most useful and universal of the maritime knots and useful on land as well. Click here for a link to see how to create this incredibly useful knot. When hanging fenders, or bumpers, off the deck to protect the boat at the docks or alongside another vessel, a Clove Hitch is best to use. Click here to see how the Clove hitch is produced. Practice these knots and cleating and you will be ready and look sharp next time you are out on the boat.
How are you with the terms “port” and “starboard” which mean left and right on a boat. Here it is, easy to remember – left and port both have 4 letters. There you go. Bow and stern refer to the front and back of the boat; the stern is the back end. “Proceed sternward to port”, translates as back up to the left.
As you have the opportunity to sharpen your skills and vocabulary as a mariner, you will continue to learn more about boating and boat safety making you a better skipper as well. Safe boating!