How to Tie a Sailboat Ratline

Written by cameron easey
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How to Tie a Sailboat Ratline
Ratlines can be tied to sail rigging to aid in navigation. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Ratlines are a type or rope ladder with "rungs" attached to the shrouds of the rigging on sailboats. These are used to allow a lookout to climb up the rigging to get a visual bearing. A ratline is needed if your global positioning system device is not functioning and there are hazards, such as reefs, nearby in the water. You can tie a ratline to your rigging by using materials that are available for any type of boat.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Felt tip marker
  • 1/2-inch diameter nylon rope
  • Waxed sail thread
  • Masking tape
  • Utility knife

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  1. 1

    Measure up from the deck of the ship to the rigging shrouds 24 to 30 inches with a tape measure.

  2. 2

    Make a mark on the aft lower shroud with the felt tip marker. Sight this mark using the horizon as your guide on the forward lower shroud. Mark a mark on the opposite shroud.

  3. 3

    Tie 3 feet of waxed sail thread to the aft shroud with a constrictor knot. Cut any loose ends of the rope with the utility knife. Repeat this step on the forward shroud.

  4. 4

    Tie another constrictor knot 5 inches from the end of a section of nylon rope by using the waxed sail thread.

  5. 5

    Cut the tip of the rope with the utility knife. Bend the end of the rope to make an "eye" shape. Unwind 5 inches of rope until you have at least three smaller strands of rope. Apply a strip of the masking take to the ends of the strands.

  6. 6

    Wrap the left strand of the rope under, over and then under the lay of the rope. Wrap the middle strand under the first strand and then turn the rope over. Wrap the third strand of rope under the last standing strand. Wrap the rope in this manner four additional times. Repeat this step on the other end of the rope.

  7. 7

    Insert the end of a piece of waxed sail thread into an eye one end of the rope. Wrap the thread around the shroud and back through the eye and then pull the thread tight. Repeat this step until the thread covers at least 1 inch of the shroud.

  8. 8

    Tie two to three half-hitch knots on the end of the wax sail thread to secure the lashing.

Tips and warnings

  • Taping the ends of the strands will keep the ends from unwinding.

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