Rope is used to rotate nearly all furling drums and some – such as Code 0 sail furlers and the old Hood in-mast system – employ a continuous line.
On my brigantine schooner Britannia, the French-made Facnor furling drivers on the mainsail and fore-course squaresail are operated by long ropes that pass once around the rotating drum and out the other side, then back to the cockpit.
They use a 3/8in (10mm), double-braided line to grip the driver, much like the jaws on a self-tailing winch, which in turn rotates the mandrel (foil) to wind the sails in and out.
My mainsail needs 16 rotations of the driver and the squaresail needs 19. Using a single line therefore results in a very long tail on one end or the other, whether the sails are furled or unfurled; the squaresail tail is 45ft long and the mainsail 35ft. These lines all lead back to the cockpit and, with the addition of two headsails and between-mast staysail furling lines, it can become very cluttered.
It would be a great improvement if these long lines could be made into a continuous loop, with only a few feet in the cockpit to go round the winches. Then I could just wind away, without having to coil yards of rope to keep the area tidy.
There are different methods to make a continuous (or end-to-end) loop with double braided line, described in rope-maker manuals and web videos, but they result in a splice that is thicker than the rest of the rope, and may not pass around the jaws of drum drivers or through clutches, blocks and self-tailing winches, with serious possibilities of a rope jam. Therefore any continuous splice needs to be no thicker than the rest of the rope. Needless to say, the splice also has to be very strong.
After a lot of experimentation and testing, I finally arrived at a satisfactory method to splice two ends of a double braided rope, with the line remaining a uniform thickness throughout.
NOTE: when splicing a continuous loop rope it must first be rove through any closed sheaves, pulleys, or clutches – it can’t be threaded through afterwards.
A special fid called a Splicing Wand makes this splicing process very easy. It was invented by the late Brion Toss, a renowned rigger from Seattle, US.
It consists of a 14in long, thin hollow stainless-steel tube, with a handle on one end and a smooth slotted opening on the other. A strong, thin line passes through the tube and makes a loop on the end to grip a splice tail, which is then held securely with the knob on the handle. The tail can then be pulled through the cover, which is the opposite of using a normal fid that must be pushed through with a pusher rod. The wand is also a great improvement on a thin wire line puller. The only other tools needed are a sharp knife and a method to heat seal the rope ends.
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