Do-it-Yourself Chafe Protection

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Photo by Ralph Naranjo

With tropical storm season under way, my mind turned to the topic of chafe protection for lines. For a broader look at hurricane preparation, theJuly 26, 2012 blog post linked to several previous Practical Sailor tests and articles related to chafe in mooring and dock lines. In this post, Ill revisit one solution that comes up again and again anytime we talk about chafe protection: the leather chafe guard.

The following short description of do-it-yourself chafe protection, written by PS Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo, appeared in the July 2011 issue of Practical Sailor.

Being a team of diehard do-it-yourselfers, we decided to try our own hand at devising a workable solution to defeating line chafe. After fiddling with canvas, old fire hose, and even messing around with some Kevlar, we settled on leather-an old riggers standby. It proved to be rugged and remained intact after we put it through our chafe protection routine on the belt sander. The fabrication process was kids craft 101, and there was something quite seafaring about the result.

Our approach was straight out of the old-salt column. Using a sharp knife and metal straight edge, we lopped off the size patch we needed. Holes were punched opposite each other at -inch intervals, and for temporary use, we zigzagged small cord the length of the leather. For a more permanent installation, we handstitched the leather in place, tucking locking stitches into the rope at each end. Holes were made with a pliers-like hole punch, and we fashioned our chafe strips to be long enough to cover the hard points, adding an additional 25 percent to the length to handle stretch and any minor slippage.

Whether laced on for short-term use or stitched more permanently in place, the leather rode smoothly in chocks and prevented the hard edge of an alloy rail from damaging rope fibers. Care needs to be taken to keep the more fragile stitched seam from facing the action and becoming the surface that handles the abrasion. But the same holds true for commercial products that rely on velcro closures.

All in all, we concluded that if you have the time and enjoy the tradition of handworking a seamanship solution, definitely go find some leather. If you would rather spend the time sailing, purchase an over-the-counter solution (see PS, July 2011 online). But above all, be ready to add anti-chafe gear to your lines when good weather turns bad; a good outcome is all about staying put.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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