Sailboats tied at a dock

Choosing the Proper Rope for Your Application

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One of the key tools used on every boat is rope.  Whether it’s for anchoring, pulling a skier, or tying up to a dock, you are sure to find a rope of some kind on any boat.  When shopping for rope, it can be daunting as there are many different types, brands, and uses.  You’ll want to make sure you are shopping for the proper rope to get the job done.  Buying the wrong rope could end in disaster if you lose an anchor or break a dock line.  This guide will help describe types of rope, a few of the popular brands, and give suggestions based on what your use will be.

Most Common Nautical Ropes

There are a few different types of ropes used in the nautical scene. In todays world, natural fiber ropes are not as commonly used due to their stiff, brittle nature. We are going to cover synthetic fiber ropes, three in particular that are of the most commonly found on boats. These include:

  • Polyester
  • Polypropylene
  • Nylon


Polyester Rope
ProsConsTypical Uses
Resistant to abrasionLess stretch then Nylon
Typically used for rigging on sailboats due to its soft nature and minimal stretch
Higher UV resistanceDoes not float in water
Soft to the touch
Strong (comparable strength to Nylon)
Less stretch then Nylon


Polypropylene Rope
ProsConsTypical Uses
Floats in the waterLess UV resistanceTypically used for water skiing and wakeboarding tow lines due to its minimal stretch, durability, and ability to float in the water
FlexibleSlick texture (slippery when wet and less friction to hold knots)
Does not kink easilyShorter life span than Nylon


Proper Rope
ProsConsTypical Uses
Higher elasticity and shock absorptionHigher elasticity and shock absorptionTypically used for docking, mooring, and anchor lines due to its elasticity and excellent shock absorption
StrongDoes not float in water
FlexibleShrinks when wet
Resistant to abrasionLoses strength when wet
Higher UV resistance

Common Rope Construction

Now that you know a little bit about the types of synthetic ropes that are common on boats, it’s time to get into some of the different types of rope construction. As with the different materials, the construction of a rope can also affect its performance and what it may be best suited for. In this section we’ll touch on a few of the basic rope construction types that are most commonly found in relation to the types of ropes we reviewed in the previous section. The most common rope constructions are as follow:

  • Single Braided Rope – A single braided rope consists of a main core that runs parallel (not braided or twisted) and has a cover that is braided.
  • Double Braided Rope – A double braided rope consists of a main core that is braided, and has a cover that is also braided.
  • Twisted Rope – A twisted rope is made up of multiple strands that are twisted together to form one single rope. A three-strand twisted rope is most common in the marine setting

Pros and Cons of Rope Construction

Now that you know a bit about some of the basic rope construction, let’s cover some of the Pros and Cons of each:

Braided Rope

More flexible then twisted ropeDifficult to splice two pieces
Stronger then twisted ropeLess stretch than twisted rope
Smoother to the touch
Less stretch than twisted rope

Twisted Rope

Easier to splice then braided ropeTypically less flexible then braided rope
Typically less expensive then braided ropeHas a higher potential to kink compared to a braided rope
Typically more durable in an outdoor environmentOnce a twisted rope is cut, the strands can separate if they are not properly sealed
Has more stretch than a braided ropeHas more stretch than a braided rope

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