Last week, we got a new main halyard. And the clerk in the store where we got the line convinced us that we could splice the line around the shackle instead of tying a less-than-elegant bowline.
It really didn’t take a lot of convincing — Dave has always liked splicing three-strand line. Why not learn a new skill?
And so the clerk told us what we’d need: a fid and a 4′ piece of practice line. He suggested a particular YouTube video.
A couple of evenings later, Dave got the fid and the practice line out. We ended up working on the splice together and came out with a respectable first effort.
A few days later, we decided to try a second practice splice in the other end of our practice line, this time with the captive shackle. We learned that as we now had less than 4 feet of line to work with (that first splice took up some of the line), there wasn’t enough to work with. We got partway through the splice and had to abort.
We figured we might as well go ahead and do the one for real. We finally got it done and it’s not quite perfect looking although the strength is not impaired.
What we have learned:
- You need a Splicing Pusher. Everyone tells you about needing a fid, specifically the right size fid. No one tells you about needing a “pusher” but it’s critcal. We didn’t have a real pusher (we didn’t know there was such a thing; we thought they were using “something” as a pusher when they talked about the pusher in the instructions) and were trying to use our icepick, which was too short. We got it done but it was ugly. I want a real pusher before I try splicing again.
- Splicing Pusher from Defender (size to line diameter)
- Practice line. Four feet is too short if you want to do a practice splice in both ends. I’m guessing it’d have to be at least 6 feet long to put a splice in both ends (possibly longer).
- Strength. It takes a lot of strength to push the fid through the line, particularly when putting the core through the cover. The video makes it look easy. Maybe it is if you do things perfectly. I wasn’t strong enough to get the fid through; it took Dave and lot of grunting and groaning.
- It looks a mess. As you’re doing the splice, it looks ugly. Really ugly. We were very disouraged and convinced that it wasn’t right. Hang in there. It doesn’t look “right” until the very last step.
- Do not try to tape the line to the fid. If you have the right pusher, you won’t be tempted. But don’t try it. The tape will come off on the inside of what you’re trying to pass the fid through and make an even bigger mess as you now have to get the tape out before trying again. Admittedly, the instructions don’t tell you to do this, but since our pusher wasn’t long enough, we were trying to pull the fid out the last bit and when we’d pull the fid, the line would fall out. So we got the bright idea of taping it in . . .
- Tape tightly. The instructions don’t say anything about this, but having a nice tight pointy end to tuck into the fid helps a lot.
- The shackle adds conplexity. Splicing a shackle into a loop is much more difficult than splicing a loop. The weight pulls at the lines you’re working with and you have to remember to get both the cover and core going through the captive loop in the shackle. Yes, I oops’d and had to un-do the impossibly difficult fid pass I’d just done. I will never make that mistake again.
- Time. Our first splices took over two hours; the one with a shackle almost three. Yes, the whole instructional video (below) is about 12 minutes and Andy’s talking and not working through part of that. He’s good and does everything right the first time. We’re learning.
- New line. Actually, we were told not to try to splice old line and we were working with new line. After doing it, I know why: you need it to be nice and slippery and pliable.
- Instructions. The instructions that came with our Samson fid were almost impossible to follow. Luckily, the clerk had told us about a great YouTube video by Andy Wall, a West Marine rigger, for New England Ropes. At first we resisted “spending” the data to watch a video, but it helped so much. Without it, we never would have gotten it done. Here it is: