Question: In the photo below you can see the frayed wire rope on my boat trailer winch. The other day as I was winching my boat back onto my trailer, the barbs you see in the photo caught me and I cut my hand pretty badly. I’m considering replacing the wire with synthetic rope. Do you have any suggestions on what synthetic rope to use?

Wire rope made of steel  eventually degrades and produces hand-mangling barbs.

Wire rope made of steel eventually degrades and produces hand-mangling barbs.

Answer: I went through this myself a while back. My lesson from the experience was to make sure you wear heavy gloves whenever you're working with wire rope. However, I ended up replacing the wire on my winch with Dyneema rope. Ounce for ounce, the synthetic Dyneema is seven times stronger than wire, which means you can use smaller diameter rope with the Dyneema. Quarter-inch Dyneema has a pull strength of 8,500 lbs., which covers most trailerable boats. Dyneema also floats, which is an advantage with a boat trailer winch. It’s quite UV-resistant, doesn't rust, doesn't create barbs, and is much easier on the hands. The problem with Dyneema? It’s expensive. But, in addition to the advantages I've just mentioned, it will will outlast any steel wire rope by a considerable margin. So I think it's worth the expense in the long run, and I’ll never use steel wire rope again.


Written by: Ed Sherman
Ed Sherman is a regular contributor to, as well as to Professional Boatbuilder and Cruising World, where he previously was electronics editor. He also is the curriculum director for the American Boat and Yacht Council. Previously, Ed was chairman of the Marine Technology Department at the New England Institute of Technology. Ed’s blog posts appear courtesy of his website, EdsBoatTips.