Marlinespike seamanship being taught to sailors in the early 20th century

Ropework or marlinespike seamanship are traditional umbrella terms for a skillset spanning the use, maintenance, and repair of rope. Included are tying knots, splicing, making lashings, whippings, and proper use and storage of rope.

While the skill of a sailor in the Age of Sail was often judged by how well he knew marlinespike seamanship, the knowledge it embraces involving docking a craft, towing, making repairs underway, and more is still critical for modern seafarers.


Main article: Whipping knot

A whipping knot is a means of holding the cut end of a rope together to prevent fraying and ensure ease of use. Constrictor knots can serve as temporary whippings while cutting ropes, as can a few layers of adhesive tape. The simplest form is the common whipping.

Modern synthetic fibers such as Nylon and polyester require alternative methods such as fusion, which uses heat to melt the fibers to make a clean cut and permanent end; non-melting fibers such as aramid require dipping the cut end in a rubberized adhesive coating, resin, or paint.

However, the rope and knotting expert Geoffrey Budworth warns against the practice of fusing thus:[1]

Sealing rope ends this way is lazy and dangerous. A tugboat operator once sliced the palm of his hand open down to the sinews after the hardened (and obviously sharp) end of a rope that had been heat-sealed pulled through his grasp. There is no substitute for a properly made whipping.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ropework.


  1. Budworth, Geoffrey (1985). The Knot Book. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. p. 37. ISBN 0-8069-7944-5.
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