Would you like to learn a new skill? Perhaps something with a touch of the black arts about it? Then read on…
I bought two offcuts of rope – a bargain at £10 each. At 15 metres, one would make a long mooring line. The other was 18 metres and would make two springs. Eye splices on each rope would be handy, but when I enquired, it was going to be £12 each, plus VAT. That was going to be more than the ropes and no longer a bargain. Could I do them myself? I know how to eye-splice rope – I learned in the Sea Scouts – but braided rope looks trickier, not least because you can’t see how it’s done. Like so many things nowadays, a trip to Google is a good start. One entry said it’s easy to do with a screwdriver. It’s lucky I used some spare rope, because an hour later, with a metre of ruined rope, it was time for another approach. Enquiries on the Westerly website brought encouraging suggestions that it’s easier with the right tools. You need fids. They are a bit like a long potato peeler, without the wooden bit, and the act like big needles. You can buy a set for £27 but there’s a chap on eBay who sells two for £14. I didn’t see this becoming a lifetime hobby so two would be fine.
Learning any new skill, especially at a distance, relies on how clearly the information is explained. You Tube has several offerings. The one to go for is Andy Wall at New England Ropes. The man is a born teacher. He goes through the process clearly and slowly, reminding you of the previous stages. The video is about twelve minutes long. I watched it five or six times in all. I also wrote out the thirty or so stages, covering two sheets of paper. Basically, you pull the core out of the cover, feed it in further along and then pull the cover over the core. Simple. Well, not really, but if you take your time, it can be done.
The first splice took me considerably longer than Andy’s twelve minutes. I checked each stage against his video, stopping and replaying it several times. An hour or so later, it looked great but the inner core didn’t meet up, meaning the eye was only as strong as the outer cover. My second attempt was equally unsuccessful, but a phone call to the man who sold me the fids put me back on track and it was third time lucky.
Once you have the eye in place, you need to “milk” the cover back over the core. Andy says it’s important to keep the rope under tension. For him, in his sail loft, there is a handy place to tie it to. At home, the only thing strong enough was the cherry tree in the garden. I just hope nobody was watching their neighbour seemingly trying to pull down a sturdy tree with a piece of rope and no chance of success. So now I have my three eye- spliced ropes and the satisfaction of learning a new skill. What next? I’ve always fancied mastering the three card trick….