It looks simple. You want to replace the rope in the rub-rail around your yacht or dinghy. You bought the rope and the helpful chap in the chandlers said you were in for a difficult job and that the secret was to twist the rope as you hammered it into the rail. Five minutes into the job and you have hit your thumb with the hammer, chipped the paint on your gleaming topsides, and the once pristine nylon rope is now squashed and hanging down in a heap.
Here's how to do it without fuss. It will take you five minutes to feed the line into the entire rub-rail of a large Boston Whaler, and you will impress your friends along the way.
You will need a short length of scrap steel tube, a knife and a cigarette lighter.
The diameter of the tube depends on the size of the opening in the rub-rail and the diameter of rope you want to feed in. On my last repair job, the opening in the rub-rail was three-eighths of an inch wide and the diameter of the rope was five-eighths, so I used a piece of one inch tubing. If you are cutting a length of tubing with a hacksaw, then make sure you remove the burrs from the inside of the tube with a file or they will snag the nylon and spoil the look of the finished job.
First, melt the ends of the line together to stop them unraveling, then slide one end of the line through the pipe. Now comes the clever bit. Give the end of the pipe a good whack with a hammer until it is oval. Flatten it enough so that you can pull the line through the pipe without too much effort. If you have been over enthusiastic with the hammer, don't sweat it, just turn the pipe on edge and whack it again to make it rounder and free up the line.
You can make this job even easier by tackling it later in the day, when sun has warmed the rub-rail, making it slightly more flexible. This also helps if the rub-rail is old and brittle, and is essential if you are replacing the entire rubber rail.
To begin, force the end of the tube into the opening in the rail. Leave about three inches of line hanging out, you can trim and heat-seal the end later. Take a firm grip on the pipe and drag it backwards down the rub-rail. The oval pipe will stretch the opening in the rail and the line will feed in with ease. Stop every few feet to give the line in the rail a tap with a mallet (or lump of wood) to help it lay nicely in the groove and then carry on pulling the tube around the boat. When you have finished, trim the line and seal the ends.
Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea. He hosts the radio show YachtBlast on Island 92, St. Maarten, and is the author of the thriller/sailing adventure Caribbean High. For more information visit: garyebrown.net
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