Being at the dock here has its perks like close land heads and an easy walk to take the dog ashore, but we’ve been tracking a lot of junk onto our decks everyday, making a lot of extra work with all the cleaning. A mat on the deck would help.
Through this post, clicking on the photos will take you to flickr where you can see more detail. Stick it out all the way through the end and you’ll see Maye enjoying the final product.
I haven’t been able to find anything at a store that I think is suitable for the boat or that I’m willing to stow away. Also, we’ve only had access to stores that I don’t feel good buying things from (big box stores, etc). Colin pointed out a good option from a classic book we keep on board called The Marlinspike Sailor by Hervey Garrett Smith. It’s called a Sword Mat.
When he showed me that I thought about how we didn’t just need one for the side deck, but that it’d be nice to have one for right in front of the companionway. We drag dust out and dirt on, and the decks are so light, so both were important. Oh, and what if we could make them long enough to fit in the cockpit well side by side, effectively making a nice grippy surface while underway?
Ooooh. Custom mats. Sounds fancy, right? Our first idea was to make them out of used material, but we didn’t have enough. Colin decided to splurge on some hemp rope and some tarred marline to make ours. We had thought about getting recycled plastic rope (the fibers are made from bottles and stuff), which comes in fun colors. I’d like to support recycling, but when I’m done with these mats years from now, I like the thought that I can just compost them.
So the process is pretty simple. Lengths of rope, a little longer than what size you’d like to end up with (more notes below about measurement specifics for both the marline and the hemp) get middled over a length of rope (I’ll call it an end rope) that will be finished with crown knots when the whole thing is finished. (top frame, picture above). We secured that end rope on opposing cleats on the dock to hold it still while we worked.
The marline you prep by measuring out what you need, finding the middle, and bundling up the two halves for deploying as you go. Rug-wise, the hemp is acting as the warp and the marline is acting as the weft.
To help wrap your brain around what happens next, think about this. The ropes that are middled have half that comes out below the end rope and half that comes over. Let’s call the unders the A half and the overs the B half. Being careful to keep that middle point of each rope settled on that end rope, you’re going to pull the As up so they make a loop around the end rope and lay to the left of the B. It’s clearly demonstrated in the diagram below that comes from the Marlinspike Sailor.
Then you lay the marline in there, tightly up against where the As and Bs cross. Then you flip the As and Bs again. Then you pass the marline across, and keep weaving all the way down.
Then when you get to the end, you just finish off the ends with some seizing. This is probably the most arduous part, just because you need to do a nice job finishing these off evenly.
The last thing to do is to finish the top of the mat, where you began. That’s simply done with two crown knots.
Of course, when I took photos of these, they had been rained on and were taking their time drying. C’est la vie! That’s what the dark spots are. Here are the mats in place for at anchor or at the dock:
Here’s how they’ll be when we’re under way:
Things we learned while doing this particular project:
We were approaching this a very particular way: we wanted mats that fit certain measurements in the end. I’m going to have Colin write up a little something about how to calculate the amount of material you need, but I’m sure you can work out what needs to be done by thinking about it for a minute. You’re going to take lengths of rope that are a little longer than what you want (by at least 6 inches, I’d recommend, more if you can spare it).
Ours ended up both less wide and less long than we needed, despite good math. We wove the mats very tightly, perhaps if we had let off a little while still being consistent, that would have solved the length problem.
I can imagine that if you’re not looking to fit this somewhere in particular, then you can just use what you’ve got and pull it off cheaply and beautifully.
And here’s that Maye shot, as promised: