Splice of life

So, we needed a line spliced.

The mainsail furling line that had come with the boat had a bad spot in it. We were concerned that it could part, which would not be good if it happened under way, so we bought a new one. But we needed a splice. Two lines joined together as one.

Enter Bernard, the master rigger, a puckish man with a lilt that put me in mind of the islands of the French-speaking Caribbean.

Splicing a line is quite an art. Like weaving, quilting, sewing and knitting, you can tell when it is done with skilled hands. And since we have so many friends that are talented that way, I appreciate the beauty that nimble hands can create. (Looking at you, Joan, Kathy and Mary Lou!)

We asked Bernard to do an end-to-end splice of our new furling line to form a loop. The furling line allows you to roll your mainsail in and out of the mast like a window blind. It needs to be a smooth continuous loop so it will feed through the winches without jamming.

His 30 years of experience showed. His hands knew the line. He quickly and deftly spliced the two together. Throughout, he kept up a steady stream of chat, sharing tales of his sailing adventures all over the world. He was especially proud of having crewed on the famous Whitbread race.

Splicing was all a big mystery to me so afterward I asked Bob to tell me what Bernard had been doing.

He explained that double braid line has an inner and outer core and that Bernard used a metal fid (a pointed metal rod) to separate the core and outer braid and to feed the line back through itself. Then he “milked” it (stretched it) to smooth the outer braid, then rolled it to make an even transition, then stitched it for insurance, then burned the ends of the stitching. The result was a strong line, much stronger than if you knotted it.

It struck me as I listened that the process was a bit of an analogy for the process of two people joining together to forge any kind of partnership. There’s a bit of stretching and rolling and stitching and even burning before the end result: a strong union.

Pop quiz: What’s the difference between a rope and a line? 

 You buy rope at the store — it becomes line when you put it on a sailboat.

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When we mentioned we were from the Ottawa area, Bernard said he was scheduled to re-rig a boat in Ottawa that was being shipped from Miami. It’s quite likely that it will end up at our old club — the Nepean Sailing Club. Another example of how small the world is!
While he was here Bernard had a look at the mast and standing rigging and declared the boat to be in fine shape. Reassuring.

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