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How to Coil & Stow Braided Lines & Ropes | Expert Advice

Hi, this is Kyle from APS. I’m here to show you how to coil braided line the correct way and the incorrect way.

The Incorrect Way to Coil Line

I’ve got a piece of 3/8” double braid here. This would be ideal for a halyard. I’m simulating a shackle on the end. Always start with the working end, where the hardware is or where the jacket is stripped. I’m going to do what I think most people typically think is the best way to coil, and certainly the prettiest way to coil. I’m going to start off with the open left hand here. I’m going to do full draws, and in order to get this coil to look perfect I’m having to rotate my right hand to get that coil. I’m going to do another full length and I’m rotating my right hand to get another perfect loop. Each time I do that, I get a pretty-looking loop, but I’m introducing twist into the line. You can already start to see the kinks that it’s creating. I’ll just keep working this. Now I’m having to work the kinks out just to make these pretty loops.

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The Performance of Incorrectly Coiled Line

I finished coiling this by introducing twists to get these beautiful, perfect coils. Now let’s see how this performs. I’m just going to throw this down. I’m going to run the line through this block. Imagine me running a main sheet, a sheet, a halyard through the mast. I’m just going to start to do a straight pull and you can see all the twists that I’ve put in the line is now starting to get introduced back into it as I try and pull it straight. Now we’re having issues. I’m going to have to manually deal with this.

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The Correct Way to Coil Line

Now that I’ve shown you why you don’t want the pretty, perfect loops and the performance issues they cause, I’m going to show you the correct way to coil this line. Now before I could start this I had to go in the other room and run this the length of the building and work out all those kinks that I put into the line. I wanted to get it right back to the condition it was in coming off the spool: balanced, no twist. I think I’ve achieved that. If you are on the boat and you’ve got a line with a lot of twist, as long as there are no other boats around, the easy way to do this is if you’re underway is, just take the line, tie it off and throw it overboard and it will just unravel behind the boat. Of course, you’re going to pull in a wet line, but you’ll have a balanced line.

The correct way to do this is, again, open left hand palm, working in to start with. I take a full arm length. What I was doing before was I was introducing twist with my right hand. Now there will be no twist. I’m just going to do a straight hand-off – right hand to left hand. You’ll notice the line has figure eight and that’s what I want. That’s a healthy-looking coil. I’m just going to do this time and again. I’m just going to stack them one on top of the other.

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The Performance of Correctly Coiled Line

I’ve finished coiling this line with the no twist added, figure eight design, very healthy. I’m going to show you the performance difference. I’m just going to toss this down, run the same line through the same block. You’ll notice there’s no hockling. There’s no twist. The line just runs smoothly through the block, all the way to its end.

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How to Hang Coiled Line

Now I’m back to this healthy, figure eight coil. Now I need to secure it, cinch it down for storage. Storing is either hanging it by tying it off to something or cinching it down and just throwing it into a storage locker. I’m going to show you the hanging one. I’m going to take at least a loop and a half or two loops worth of length. Do not start with too short a piece. You’re not going to be happy at the end of this. Good, long loop length, and I’m basically going to take it in my hand and I’m going to come about a third of the way down and I’m going to cinch it with this finger. I’m going to start to wrap the line. I’m doing this tightly. I usually like to get a minimum of five in place. I’m going to run my hand through. For the hanging I’m just going to pull this and pull the tail through. That’s it. This isn’t going to go anywhere. Now I have the ability to do a half-hitch on a rail or on a hook or wherever and I can store it.

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How to Stow Coiled Line

Now if I was putting this in a locker, I really wouldn’t need a tail. I’m going to undo this. I don’t need quite this length. I’m going to put a couple extra wraps on this. In this case, I’m going to run the loop through but I’m going to run it back over the line and cinch it down. Now I’ve got a very sturdy piece for storage. If I had dock lines or a bunch of extra halyards or sheets, I could throw a whole bunch of these into a storage locker and they’re going to stay nice and secure and not get mixed up and knotted together, and I’ve retained the non-twist figure eight coil.

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The Incorrect Way to Coil Lines on Winches

I’ve shown you how to properly coil a line using the figure eight when you’re going to hang it or throw it into a storage locker. Now imagine your halyard tail’s around your cabin top winches and you’re done for the day and you want to coil these up. What’s the common thing that we see? We see people doing these really beautiful loops. As I’m doing this, just as before when I do perfect loops, I’m introducing twist so when I go to release this I’m going to introduce hockles and twist and I’m going to be pulling at it, trying to get this line to run free.

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The Correct Way to Coil Lines on Winches

Now the proper way to store halyard tails. Open hand and you’re just going to repeat a figure eight back and forth. I’m introducing no twist. I’m not having to rotate my wrist. Then when you’re ready to use this, just drop it in the cabin. No twist, everything just zings right through the blocks. How to coil line 8

How to Coil Large Diameter Line

I’ve shown you how to properly coil lines on boats, say, under 50 feet. Imagine you find yourself out sailing on a 50, 60, 70, 80 foot boat. We’re going to get in some large line diameters. This is 5/8”. Maybe it’s 1” or even larger. Because of the length of the boat we’re talking about a long length of line. It’s heavy to begin with. This is all polyester. If this was water sodden it’s going to be double the weight. Unless you’re a bodybuilder with amazing stamina you’re not going to be able to stand up and do arm coils with this. It’s just too heavy. How do I coil this and not introduce kinks into it? I’m sitting Indian style here. Say this is the deck of the boat. I’m going to keep my knees fairly high. I’m going to be doing full arm length grabs of this line and I’ll be laying it out in a figure eight.

Again, if this was something that had hardware on it I would start with the working end first and just lay that across my leg. I’m going to take this over here. I’m going to do a full arm grab and then I’m going to lay it down. I’m going to do the same thing and I’m going to lay it down. You can see with each time I do this I just build my figure eight, and because I’m doing full arm lengths it’s a consistent lay.

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I’ve finished coiling this line, sitting criss-cross. I extracted myself from it. In many cases this could be twice this amount of line, even more. You’re talking about a considerable amount of weight. Now what I’m going to do is get it ready for storage. You can see I’ve got nice, clean figure eights. I want to preserve that. I may want to just throw this in a locker or I may want to hang it. Now, dealing with this length it’s just too much to work with one end so what I’m going to do is I’m going to halve this. I’m going to grab it right here in the middle at the transition. I’m just going to lift it up. I’m going to load this line across so I’ve got it in my hand, right here, and bring this down just a little bit more.

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How to Stow Large Diameter Lines

I’d like to go about a half way down instead of a third. I’m going to start my loops, all the way around. I’m going to pull it tight and I’m going to hold it with my hand here. I’m going to take another one and I’m going to pull this very tight. There’s my third. There’s my fourth. Again, I like to do a minimum of five. There’s my fifth. Now I’m going to just snake my hand right back through here and I’ve got options. There we go. Pulling this through. I could run the tail through here and we could tie it off or I could take that back out, go back to the cradle or I could just bring the loop around it. Bring a little more. Pull that off. Now I could just throw it into a locker.

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All right. Now you know how to coil lines like a pro, whether it’s boats under 50 feet or over 50 feet.

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3 Responses

  1. In the late 70’s WGBH in Boston put together a series of one hour programs on sailing. Every week Brion Toss, their Mr. Knot, showed the best way to tie a knot, or cleat or coil a line. His coiling method was to coil every other coil the old fashioned way introducing the kinks we hate. But between each of these coils he reversed the alternate coils so the twist was cancelled out. These coils result in the end of the line coming out from behind the top coil rather than in front of it. This method is the way professional camera people coil heavy cables and smart folks coil hoses. It has all the advantages of your figure eight but looks better and once you have it down right it seems to me to be easier to do. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

  2. I learned how to coil air hoses while at Boeing Wichita working in” Modifacation”on B-47 Bombers from an ex-oilfield “Driller”. We just wanted to them in a nice round pile for storing, but not the loops like you got in “Rope” when we run 50- 60 Ft. of 1/4″ hose from an “Air Pig” that was connected by a 1″ hose to a “Power island” next to each Aircraft Parking Space.

    To lay up a Hose with a “Round Pile” the first turn is a normal turn but then each second turn is twisted to be an “Underhand Turn” (the “Crossover” is now in the “Pile” diameter) . The “Round Pile” is easy to swing over a shoulder to transport from a “Storage Area” to your “Aircraft Parking Space” then unwind from the “Aircraft” to the “Air Pig” and plug it in. You think large Diameter Rope is heavy just try rubber hose for weight & stiffness . PS I sail a Norseboat on Cheney Lake 20 miles west of Wichita, KS

  3. Great advice. over the last forty years of teaching sailing, I’ve found that more than two or three wraps of the tail around the coil for stowage are unnecessary, but 5 or more won’t create any problems, other than trap a bit more moisture as long as you are putting those wraps on with the tail rather than the working end. But, the urgent message you eloquently make is to keep the line without induced twist, thank you!

    Laid line IS coiled in a round loop as it already has induced twist that has to be accommodated. I suspect that’s the basis of much of the confusion on how to coil braided lines.

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