November 14, 2008

Warping the woofed weft

Old Wotsisname down the row from me drives me mad. He’s a liveaboard who’s been sailing for 30 years and he’s never learned to do an eye splice in his dock lines. He uses bowline knots to make the loops that go around the dock cleats; big ugly bowlines that make you want to throw up.

“I wouldn’t trust those bowlines,” I said to him one day when the forecast was for 40 knots. “They’ll work loose and you’ll be cast adrift.”

“Won’t hurt me none,” he shrugged.

That’s the trouble with O.W. He’s selfish. Not a considerate neighbor. His old 38-footer is bullet-proof. It’s built of concrete with mild steel reinforcing, and multiple rust streaks to prove it.

“But think of the boat next to you. You’ll mash that nice Jeanneau to bits.”

“Stupid lah-de-dah Froggy boat,” said O.W. “Should build them stronger.”

“C’mon,” I said. “Let me teach you to do an eyesplice. It’s easy – and they can’t come undone.”

O.W. knitted his beetle brows together. “It’s too hard,” he said.

“Nonsense,” I cried, “I can show you.”

I won’t bore you with the details. Everybody knows that the best nylon dock line is a rope made of three strands, known technically as the warp, the woof and the weft. It’s true. You can look it up in a dictionary if you don’t believe me.

For the first tuck there are three simple steps. You tuck the warp under the weft, the woof under the warp, and the weft under the woof.

Now, with the warped weft in your left hand, and the wefted woof in your right, you turn the woofed warp under the newly wefted woof, over the original wefted warp, and under the new warped woof.

In a couple of minutes we had a nice new splice in O.W’s stern line.

“Have you got it?” I asked.

“No,” said O.W. “It’s too complicated.”

One of today’s big problems is that people like O.W. have lost the art of concentrating.

“Nah, it’s not complicated,” I insisted. “Pay attention. Listen up.”

We moved to his bow line, and I did it all over again. Nice splice, even if I say so myself.

“Now you have a go,” I said.

He undid the bowline in his forward spring line and started in with the marline spike. In two minutes he had built a bird’s nest of the first order, an unholy mess.

I shook my head and sighed. “No, no, in Step 2 you warped the weft instead of woofing the warp,” I pointed out. I undid his tangle, straightened it out, and finished the splice. “Now listen, here’s a mnemonic.”

“A what?”

“Something to help you remember:

With what will we weft the woof?
“Why, the warp, as always, in truth.

I told him it was one of those clever little rhymes sailors invent for various eventualities, like:

When in danger or in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout.

O.W’s face lit up. “I know that one,” he said.

“I bet you implement it, too,” I said.

The wind was building by this time, and I thought it unwise to undo the bowline on the last line, his aft spring.

“I’ll leave you to practice your woofing, warping, and wefting,” I said.

He never did, of course. But now, at least, every time I walk past O.W’s boat, there’s only one ugly bowline knot left to turn my stomach. If he ever gets around to splicing that last line we’ll have to have a nice little woof-wetting ceremony.

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PS: If you feel compelled to have your say, please click on the word ‘comments’ below. (Unless you are a librarian with steel-rimmed glasses who read my last blog, in which case don’t bother. I temporarily discourage comments from enraged librarians.)

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