If you’re like most boaters who live in the northern hemisphere right now, you’re probably starting to suffer from a touch of cabin fever (or maybe in your case, it’s full-blown). So I was sitting around this weekend thinking of a great DIY project that most anyone can do without leaving the warmth of his or her own living room. Know what I came up with? Splicing a new set of dock lines for your boat—and believe me, dock line splicing is easier and more enjoyable than you think.
The material we’ll be using for this project is three-strand nylon, so please, please, please don’t go out and have multiple lengths of braided nylon cut to order, unless you've already read Yale Cordage PhD: Single-Braid Splicing is a Breeze. I can almost guarantee that your marine store won’t take back cut-to-order line, and I won’t be showing you how to splice it here.
As far as which diameter line you should use for your size boat, ask the pros at your marine shop to recommend the right size. When it comes to getting the correct lengths and number of lines for your boat, read Dock Lines 101: How to Choose and Use or watch our video, How to Select and Maintain Dock Lines.
For this project, we’ll be splicing in an approximately one-foot diameter loop into one end of each of our lines. This means that for each line, we’ll need to remember to add approximately four feet to the total length for the splice and the loop. For example, if you want a 20-foot bow line with a spliced loop, have the shop cut you 24-foot long piece. If you want to splice in a larger loop, you can always lay out a loop at your marine store, and then add about 10 to 12 inches for the splice.
You will need some tools to do this job, but they’re not expensive or hard to find. First, you’ll need a fid. A fid is a tool that allows you to work the line and weave the individual strands of line back on itself. Most good marine stores have them, but you can also order one from larger online marine retailers. Next, you’ll want a utility knife, with a fresh sharp blade, and ordinary masking tape. Last, you’ll want a flame source of some sort. This can be a candle, butane lighter, or a mini-torch. If you’ve got extra bucks floating around, a hot knife designed to cut line is a nice item to have. But don’t buy it unless you can use it on other projects aside from this one.
That’s all you’ll need. Once you’ve gather up your line, tools, and other materials, pour yourself a celebratory libation... then check back tomorrow for part 2, when we’ll show you how to splice in the loops that make it all work.