Splices

Wire Rope Eye Splice

Rope is rope and an eye splice is an eye splice, regardless of the material.  

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At a whaling museum in Flores, Azores, Portugal, I came across this impressive feat. 

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It’s a wire rope eye splice done in massively thick wire rope!  

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This eye splice used to be used in the terrible act of hauling dead whales from the shore to the “processing plant” where the oil was extracted from their tissues.  

The rope was used under high loads and dragged over stone roads as it hauled the load up from the volcanic shoreline. Regular hemp rope at the time would not have been able to support the load or chafe, but it appears that wire rope was up to the challenge! 

Regardless of the material, a splice is. a splice and following the pattern will result in a familiar looking result.  

Rope to Chain Splice

Most windlasses will not accept a thimble connection between rope and chain. Instead, they need to be spliced in a low profile way where the transition from rope to chain goes unnoticed and seamless. 

The rope to chain splice has a lot in common with a long splice, where the lays are removed and replaced to connect the lines. 

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To begin, you need to understand a few basic points. First, the length of your splice needs to be at least 2 feet, which means that the start of your splice will occur two feet in from the bitter end.

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To begin, you will unravel one strand of your three strand rope. The strand will want to unravel, but you must keep it all together. With practice, you will be able to do this on new rope without any added stiffening agents (which is how I am doing it here), but if you have trouble keeping the strands from unraveling, a liberal coating with hair spray might be the answer to your woes. 

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With one strand removed, you now have two strands that are still twisted together. You want to slide the chain link down these two strands until it meets the separated strand. There should be at least 2 feet of tail extending beyond the link. 

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Now begins the splice. I like to bend all three strands over to the side and separate the two that have passed through the chain. The strand that is closest to the outside strand will be the strand of interest for this next step.  We will call this one the second strand.

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You are going to unwind the third strand, and wind in the closest strand, which we are calling the second strand.

Let me clarify, you will lift out the third strand that did not go through the chain and you will replace it with the strand that is closest to it that did go through the chain. As you lift out the third strand, you will pack the second strand into the groove it has left behind. You will continue this process as you go burying the entire length of the splice, which is at least 2 feet. 

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Down the rope you will go, removing the third strand and closely following it with the second strand. 

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When you get down to about 5 inches from the end, you will tie a square knot with the third strand and the second strand. The square knot will sit neatly into the groove of the rope, hiding it from view. The tails of the square knot will then be tucked into the lays of the rope at least 3 times. It is wise to taper the tails as you go through each tuck, that way the transition leading up to and away from the knot is gradual and will not foul the windlass.

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Back at the chain, you not have the second strand folding over the link and tucking itself back into the rope. The first strand remains however and needs to be addressed next. 

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You will take the first strand and tie a half hitch with itself.  

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This half hitch will be tightened down.  

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With the knot tightened up, the tail can then be tucked into the lays of the rope. 

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The second strand was connected to the rope via a long splice while the first strand is connected to the rope via a short splice. You will want to continue tucking into the rope, at least 5 tucks at a minimum, though 7 tucks would be ideal. 

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I personally like to tuck the first strand in 7 times and then begin tapering the rope on the subsequent tucks. Tapering is easy, all you need to do is separate the yarns of the strand that you have worked so hard to keep together and count how many yarns are present. Simply divide the yarns into equal quantities and begin snipping them as you go. I like to do three equal groups, as this gives an even taper that is 33% smaller on each tuck. 

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The end result is an even tapered splice that will flow through a windlass with ease. It helps to roll and work the rope to get the lays back into their place. You need not to fret much about this though as the load placed upon it by anchoring will work the strands back into their lay in no time! 

You might be concerned though, about only using two strands to hold your chain instead of all three. In a sense, you have reduced the strength of the rope from three strands to only two! 

The truth is, this splice is stronger than the three strands, as the two strands that are working are folded over and tucked back into the rope. This creates a 2:1 on each strand, meaning that there are actually 4 strands holding the force of the chain! That's right, you started with three strand rope and ended up holding the chain with four strands. 

It is very important though that the link be tied tightly in the rope that way it doesn't wiggle around while in service. Movement will lead to chafe, and chafe will saw through any number of strands in a heartbeat.  

By tightening the strands snugly around the rope and splicing them back into the rope, you will create the strongest rope to chain connection possible without the use of a thimble and with the ability to flow through a windlass undetected. 

Climbing the Mast: Questionable Halyard Splice

When you climb the mast, your entire life is hanging by a single rope: the halyard. If there is any failure in the halyard, you will fall. This will result in either serious injury or death! It is wise to only climb a mast on a halyard that you think can support your weight. If you have any questions about the halyards ability to support your weight, don't use it!

The halyard on this yacht was in good condition but the splice was a bit questionable. If you attach your gantline to the shackle, always verify that the splice is in proper condition. You can't see inside the eye splice, but you can feel inside. Feeling the eye splice will let you note any discrepancies in the core and cover. W

When feeling this eye splice, the core seemed to disappear right as it entered the eye. It felt like if the eye splice was performed by cutting the core and only burying the cover. There is no way I would trust my life to such a cheap shortcut!

The rest of the halyard seemed to be in good enough condition and of sufficient strength to hold my weight, so I simply tied the halyard to the top block of my gantline. I couldn't fit the shackle through the slot on the block, so instead I tied a bowline in a bight. The end with the shackle simply hangs and dangles aside while the knot securely connects the block to the halyard.

If you don't feel safe with a piece of equipment, don't rest your life on it! Find a way to only support your life by the components that you feel are strong enough to bet your life that they will hold well. If you can not assemble a safe method to raise yourself up the mast with the reliable components, do not climb the mast! 

I personally climb my own mast using the shackle because I did the splice and buried plenty of tail into the splice. On other peoples masts, I typically tie a knot onto the top block of the gantline because their splices look weak or inadequate. If you have a weak splice on your own yacht, do consider replacing the splice (or halyard entirely) with one that is strong enough to support your life.

Class II Double Braid Eye Splice

Eye splices are a great way to connect a shackle to the end of a line. In this example we will be attaching a halyard shackle to the end of the line using an eye splice. The line we are working with is VPC which is a technora/polyester blend. Since some of the fibers in it are technora, the rope counts as a high tech line and requires the use of a Class II Double Braid Eye Splice.

In the begging, everything is simple. You have your shackle and your VPC line. 

Then it all gets really complicated! But don't worry, it's not as wild and confusing as it might first seem. 

Your first step will be to put a pin through the entire line about 12 feet into the line that way the shifting core and cover won't affect the rest of the line. This will make your life easier later on in the splicing process.

Your second step will be to remove the core from the cover for the portion of the splice that will be buried. Since this is a Class II splice, you need to bury 2.5 fid lengths. The reason for this long tail is Class II cores are slippery. The longer the buried tail, the more friction can be passed to the tail to hold the splice in place. If you want to err on the safe side, simply make the buried tail even longer as this will increase the strength of the splice.

At 2.5 fid lengths (or more if you want to be safe) you will bend the rope and extract the core from the cover. When you bend it over, the cover fibers will stretch a bit and you can work them apart with a blunt pin or a small fid. Once the cover fibers are separated, you can insert a small fid and lift the core out of the cover.  

Once enough core is out of the cover for you to grab, you can simply pull the core completely out without the aid of any tools.

With the core removed from the cover, you might feel like proceeding with the splice! If you do, you will regret your life choices towards the end of the splice when the last bit of core doesn't want to go back into the cover and you are stuck with an unsightly bleb of core herniating out of the cover.

What you need to do now is equalize the core and cover. During the manufacturing process, the core and cover are woven at alarmingly fast rates. The result is a very tight core and cover that you might not be able to fit the fatter core after the splice into the cover. By equalizing the core and cover, the cover will be looser and it will help you later on to milk the core back into the cover. 

To equalize the core and cover, you will pull the core out of the cover and then milk the cover back over the core. This is why the pin through the rope is necessary, as it gives you a stopping point during the equalization. You will push the cover back as you pull the core out, then milk the cover back over the core. Repeat this three times and you will be done with this step. When you finish equalizing the core and cover, you will find that the core protrudes out a significant amount of core extending past the cover.

With the core and cover equalized, now is a great time to slip the shackle on for the halyard. The most annoying thing that could happen during the splice is beginning to bury the splice and realizing that you forgot to put the shackle on! If you put the shackle on now, you won't have to worry about remembering to put it on later.

With the shackle on, you can tie a slip knot in the exposed core to avoid it from sliding back into the cover.

With the shackle in place, you can measure the desired size of the eye by wrapping the line around the shackle. I prefer a small eye as this keeps the eye splice out of the shiv if your halyard ends up at the masthead. If you like a larger eye, simply give yourself more line to wrap around the shackle. On the other side of the shackle, you will bend the rope and pull the core out the same way you did for the tail. The slip knot in the tail will prevent you from accidentally pulling "tail core" into the loop instead of "core core."

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At this point, you have everything exposed to carry out the splice. The tail is tied off, the loop is tied off, and the shackle (remember to put the shackle on!) is in its place. It is time to start burying everything and wrapping the splice up.

Pass a fid through the tail core and bury the tail cover inside the tail core. This makes the entire splice look much neater and helps to taper the splice inside the line.

To make sure everything is tapered properly, you want to taper the cover inside the core that way the transition from cover over core to core over cover in the splice. This will keep stress on the individual fibers low and increase the strength of the splice.

The tail is now passed through the loop on the other side of the shackle with the fid. A portion of the loop is consumed by the slip knot, so you will have to end short of the full loop. This is not a problem as you will simply exit the loop shy of the slip knot and then stretch out the loop over the buried tail.

With the tail in the loop, and the loop stretched out, you can see that there is still a portion of tail that is not buried. This would be a problem, since Class II cores are slippery and you need all the friction from length that you can get. 

This last bit is easily buried by simply inserting the fid back through the exit hole and passing it through the remaining loop once the slip knot has been removed. Now, the entire tail is buried, all that is left to do is to taper the tail and then bury it again.

The tail was tapered systematically, creating a very gradual decline in thickness that will produce a very subtle taper that will reduce any stress on the individual strands and produce a very strong splice.

With the tail buried, you can see the gradual taper in the line as it goes back into the cover. All that is left to do now is to milk the loop back into the cover and whip the splice. Since the pin is still in the rope, securing the position of cover and core, this process is relatively simple. The cover will slip over the spliced core easily at first, then it will become more difficult. The last bit will be a bear to bury, and if you didn't equalize the core and cover at the beginning, it might not actually bury. Having equalized, you should know that with enough force, it will bury. 

To do the last bit, you need to tie the rope to a sturdy point, such as a cleat, and yank really hard on the end. The snapping force will bury the core into the cover in very small increments, but it will eventually complete the task.

Whipping helps to secure the splice and make everything look pretty. You can see the tight eye splice wrapping around the shackle as it turns back to bury in the line. You shouldn't worry about the tight radius turn over the shackle because making the eye larger will not change the radius of the shackle that the line turns over.

The final test is to feel the halyard and see if you can feel a step inside the cover where the splice ends. If you did a proper taper, the line will gradually get smaller until you reach the end of the splice and are unable to positively locate the end of the buried tail. This very gradual change in size reduces the stress on the strands and that will maintain the strength and integrity of the splice.