Getting my friend's 38-foot, seven-ton lobsterboat launched down the old marine railway wasn’t much of a problem: He knocked out a stern support, banged a wedge off the track, did a bit of grunting with a crowbar, and down she rolled with increasing speed until she was in her element again.
Getting the wheeled cradle back up the railway and safely ashore was another issue. The cradle assembly, mounted on steel I-beams with steel railroad wheels below, weighs (I’m guessing) 1000 lbs. Add in the resistance of weeds, wood chips, miscellaneous bumps on the rusty old track, and a 15-degree pull angle, and it’s a bear. To pull the boat-loaded cradle up the ways we use a two-part gun tackle with the tail running through a big old snatch block attached by a chain to a post buried in the ground, and then to the hitch on a pickup truck. But that extra long line was buried in the shop under another project, so we figured the unloaded cradle wouldn’t be too much of a menace if we were to just pull it straight up through the snatch block with the truck.
Problem was, we didn’t have a single line long enough for that. So we used a couple of old sailor’s solutions that we’ll pass along here. Line one was tied to the cradle. Line two, which is the same diameter as line one, was bent onto line one below the turning block. This meant we could only pull as far as the bend (knot). We married the lines with a Carrick bend. No other bend will do. If the lines had been of slightly different diameters, a sheet bend would probably have worked. Never a square knot (reef knot) or anything else except two bowlines, because the tension would make them impossible to untie. Reef knots, slipped, are for shoelaces. That’s about all they’re good for. (I know, heresy.)
When the bend was pulled up to the turning block, we stopped the truck. Now we had to transfer the load of the cradle to the buried post so that we could move the knot to the other side of the snatch block. For this we used a relieving line with a rolling hitch, maybe the most helpful and overlooked hitch ever. On big sailboats and any working vessels that use rope winches (as distinct from wire winches), when there’s an override that can’t be cleared under tension, you can often use a relieving line with a rolling hitch, taken to a secondary winch, to take the pressure off the overridden winch and clear the wrap.
Using a smaller line that would lie close to the laid rope, we tied a rolling hitch (with an extra round turn, because this braid is a bit slippery), hauled it up tight, belayed to the post, wedged a cradle wheel on the track, backed the truck up a couple of feet to give ourselves some slack in the main line, opened the snatch block, and then just muscled the Carrick bend to the uphill side of the sheave. If it had been too hard, we could have taken the relieving line through another block to the truck. And away we went again, wedging and pulling until the cradle was high and dry.
When it was all done, the Carrick bend in those old lines could be taken apart by hand with little effort.
Good clean fun, messing about in boats.
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