Rope – you get what you pay for?

posted in: Motor boating 0

When we bought Formanda last year we knew we would want a decent set of warps onboard. The plan was to buy in bulk, then cut to required lengths and splice and whip the ends (well if I’m being honest I’d do the chopping and measuring and Michelle would do the splicing, the art of which conveniently continues to elude me).

As anyone familiar with such things will know, buying a 100m drum of 16mm nylon or polyester three-plait is never going to be cheap. Enter the Internet search routine.

Most of the traditional marine outlets online didn’t seem to recognise that anyone would want to buy rope in that kind of quantity, at least back in May 2006 that was the case. A clue there…but undeterred I Googled out an outfit unknown to me, Timko Ltd, who could sell a 220m bale of nylon three-plait for around£150. That seemed like a deal hard to pass up, even though I would have preferred polyester and even though the deal did seem too good to be true. So off the order went and a very large bale turned up inside a week; so far so good.

The bale was duly turned into a lot of useful warps of varying lengths, the only concern being that the rope felt very soft. However it was quite something to be able to put a 50m and a couple of 40m long lines in the locker for that just-in-case moment, and to deploy pristine white shorter warps around the boat.

Ummm…the pristine white thing didn’t last long. The first time it rained (and there was rather a lot of it in August last year) the soaked warps turned a very jaundiced yellow. We checked with Timko if there was an issue with the rope degrading but were told by email respondent Daniel Macguire “I’m afraid I have never came across this before in our nylon ropes so I couldn’t advise you as to why this has happened.” Well that made two of us I guess.

Once dry, the warps went white but they soon returned to a sickly hue when wet in freshwater.

In fairness the rope seemed otherwise okay, at least at the time. It also seems to have lost its chameleon characteristics. But having just returned from Formanda tonight I can report it doesn’t wear well (surprise, surprise), having chafed badly over the winter. And where it has been particularly exposed to prolonged wet and sunshine it has taken on a texture more like spun polypropylene.

So as with much in life it seems you get what you pay for with cheap rope such as this. We doubled all the warps over winter and the boat stayed safe through various gales, but they are never going to last as long as better quality ropes, a couple of older examples of which have stayed with me through about 10 years and four boats now.

I see on Timko’s site that the company now sells polyester and that quite possible would be a better bet; certainly the price, though more expensive than the nylon, is still attractive (if you want 220m landing on your doorstep). But you might quite possibly find me looking for something from the likes of English Braids or Marlow for a workmanlike set of dock lines – I’ll keep the cheap stuff in the locker for less onerous uses, preferably on a dry day.

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