When you need to permanently connect two ropes and have the time and skill to splice them together, you are faced with two options: Short Splice or Long Splice. What are they and what are the differences?
The most obvious difference in the splices is the length of the splice. A short splice is betwen 6 to 8 inches long, where a long splice is around 3 to 4 feet long.
The short splice is certainly easier to perform than a long splice, the ends of the three strand line are simply braided into each other and the ends of the line are joined. This works well for docklines or painters, but not so well for sheets or halyards. The act of short splicing will add some bulk to the line at the junction. This bulk can be greatly reduced by tapering the ends, but there will still be a larger bulky segment that may jam on winches.
The long splice is the answer to the pitfalls of the short splice! It will join the two cut ends of the line with no added bulk or stiff segments. The long splice is completed by unlaying and relaying the strands of the line to permanently and firmly reconnect the two ends. A properly done long splice will not be easy to spot as there is no added bulk in the line. The only clue to its existence would be the tufts of where the strands are knotted.
Sounds like the long splice is the magic bullet for joining two lines! Why would anyone ever do a short splice?
Long splices are a pain to do! I fouled a sheet in my prop one time and had to cut the sheet free. After returning from the water, I had to reconnect the sheet so we could keep sailing. I only did a long splice out of necessity, otherwise I try to do short splices whenever possible.
To do a long splice, you need to relax, sit back, and prepare yourself mentally for the ordeal. Tie constrictor knots about 3 feet back from the end of each line to prevent the whole thing from unraveling.
Then you will carefully unlay one of the strands while replacing it with a strand from the other line. The first strand will go from "Line A" into "Line B" the whole length. At the end, you will tie a square knot in the two strands and bury the tails into the lays.
The second strand will go from "Line A" into "Line B", but only 2/3rds the length and then bury those tails.
Lastly, take the third strand from "line B" into "Line A", bury it the whole length and tie the ends burying those tails.
Now you have a completed long splice with the junctions well separated from each other to distribute the stresses of the splice terminations over a long expanse of the line, keeping all the strength of the original line! What could be so hard about it?
While you are unlaying and relaying the strands, they can not loose their twist. If they come unraveled, the splice will not look right and might not work all together. If it unravels, you have to cut the unraveled part off and start over moving further back into the line you are splicing.
After you are done, put a load on the line to get the lays to settle in, this will greatly improve the look of the finished splice.
I have only done this splice once, and it was on my sheet after I foulded the prop. The line was well salted and stiff, which helped to avoid unraveling (but it still tried to unravel). If the rope is new and soft, it will unlay and unravel in a hurry! To combat this, either brine the rope or coat it in more hairspray than a highschool girl getting ready for prom. This will stiffen up the line and help avoid any accidental unravels.
If you have to splice the two ends together, your first choice is a short splice. If you have to run this line through any leads or hardware, then you have to use a long splice.
The much easier alternative is to replace the whole sheet, but if you are in a situation where a replacement is not available or you can't afford a replacement, a long splice will come to the rescue and restore utility of your damaged line.