View Full Version : Ratline Rigging

Carl Stone
01-18-2003, 04:49 PM
My wooden ketch is rigged with 3/8" steel shrouds for the masts. Any sugestions as to how to best add steps to get to my spreaders. I am open to all suggestions including rope steps or wooden. The main problem is how to attach the step. Thanks in advance

01-18-2003, 08:18 PM
Bosn's chair???

01-18-2003, 08:57 PM
On traditional boats the shrouds are wormed and served and possibly parceled. Worming is filling in the gaps between the strands and serving is wrapping line around the shroud. This is either painted with a white lead type paint or with pine tar varnish (recipe in "The Rigger's Apprentice). This is a lot of work but it will hold on ratlines. I did see a boat that had it's shrouds served maybe 1.5 inches above and below where the rungs were rattled on. Aesthetically; it's up to you. If you were going to tie on to the bare wire, I'd use a heavily waxed or tarred line and use some derivative of the rolling hitch

David P
01-18-2003, 09:37 PM
Rope ratlines can be attached by splicing eyes in both ends of the ratline and then lashing that to the shroud with tarred marline. The shroud should be served under the lashing but you don't have to do the full length. If the ratline spans three shrouds you can put a clove-hitch on the centre shroud and lash to the outside shrouds. There is no need for the ratline to stretch bartight, in fact a little slack will cradle your foot. Keep the lashings tarred and keep your eye on them. It gets your heart rate up if one lets go.One last tip for going aloft with ratlines; don't climb by holding ratlines with your hands. Keep your hands on the shrouds and slid them up as you climb.That way if a ratline lets go you drop down to the next one as opposed to falling backwards. Ratlines can be great just pay attention.

Mike Field
01-18-2003, 09:55 PM
What David said.

Here's how Hervey Garrett Smith put it --


Note that the shrouds are fully served. Also that there probably should be some frapping turns on the seizings.

David P
01-18-2003, 10:14 PM
Mike's diagram is right on but I would put some frapping turns on the seizing as well. You want that seizing nice and tight with no chance of it slipping.

Frank Pellegrino
01-18-2003, 10:21 PM
Purchase blocks to make a 5 part purchase. Measure the mast height from the deck and by 1/2" line 5X the height. Buy a good bosuns chair. Run the line through the blocks and attach the chair. Hoist the other end to the masthead using the main halyard and you can now hoist yourself up to the masthead or you can have someone winch you up. Sounds complicated and expensive, but I did this years ago and still have the tackle arrangement even thought the boat is gone. We still get request from boating friends to borrow it as it proved to be the most effective way to get to the top. Store the whole thing in a clean 5 gallon dry wall compound pail. This turned out to be one of the most useful and most used pieces of gear I had.

David P
01-18-2003, 11:23 PM
Bosuns chairs are very useful but it is harder than heck to set a topsail from one. Ratlines have their place. My current boat has mast steps which are not everyones cup of tea but they do get you aloft.Got a bosuns chair too.

Ian McColgin
01-22-2003, 11:18 AM
You don't need to serve the whole stay if you serve tightly with marline over stainless.

Make every third step a batten - this will hugely lessen the sag. I think Brion Toss's book has good directions on how to finish the ends of the battens.

For your splices, work out exactly how many tucks you want, exactly the size of the eye, and exactly how to correctly measure such that the finished product fits. The splices actually make the line a tad shorter and of course since part of the eye's span is held against the stay, that shortens things up as well. You'll need to develop the formula for the size line you're working with.

When you install, take a chair to the top of you job and start from the top down, being very careful not to over tighten the job. Otherwise you'll end up with the dreaded sinecurvestay.


David P
01-22-2003, 11:52 AM
We used to make the ratline by simply measuring between the shrouds at the required spot and splicing the line to length.If a third shroud was involved, we'd cut the line a little long,and fit the length in place. If you work from the bottom up you can always use it further up if you cut it too short! Also any spacing errors are high up where they are less obvious. Our shrouds were much heavier than yours (3\4")so sag wasn't an issue but you could use a bosun's chair to avoid the problems that Ian mentioned.