Matthew Walker Knot - Ships Nostalgia
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Matthew Walker Knot

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  #1  
Old 25th January 2009, 23:44
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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Matthew Walker Knot

I came across a bit of a story that I started to write a few years ago. I never finished it but I thought I might put it in, After I read it I began to wonder if I could still tie a Matthew Walker knot so I went into the garage and found a piece of line and tried it. I succeeded although I didn't make a perfect job of it. Now, I am wondering if I could still do a liverpool splice. I don't have a spike and I don't know where I could be likely to find a lump of wire rope.
I don't suppose they splice wires any more, do they? I expect that thing we used to call a yankee splice would be all the go now


Matthew Walker Knots
by Arthur Jenner

“Bloody sailors you call yerselves, yer wouldn’ make a sailor between the lot of yer.” Thus spake the boatswain.
We knew he didn’t really mean it so we humoured him. After all there wasn’t any point in arguing. He was a decent old bloke really. He’d been at sea since the year dot and it must have been a miracle that he was still allowed to go to sea at his age: he must have well over seventy. I suppose the average age of the rest of the deck crew must have been about twenty five; ranging from Lazy Harry the deck boy, who was fifteen, to ‘Grandad’ Robinson who must have been nearly forty.
“Well bose, what do you expect. When you went to sea I suppose it was sails and salt pork and splicing the mainbrace, wasn’t it,” said ‘Lofty’ Cole, “We don’t need so much seamanship nowadays, do we. So long as we can splice a wire or a rope, rig a derrick, handle a paintbrush and steer the bloody thing we can manage swimmingly, even though half of us can’t bloody swim.”
“They couldn’t swim in my day neither,” said the boatswain “There wasn’t any point. It would only prolong the agony if you fell over the side. Splicing the mainbrace? That was a Navy thing. It wasn’t often we got a tot.”
“Ha,” said Smithy, “It’s no better now. When do any of us get a free tot of rum? Christmas day, that’s about it, I suppose the Mate gives you a little drinkie now and again, Bose, doesn’t he”
“None of your business my lad”, responded the boatswain. “Anyway I didn’t come here to talk about my drinking habits, nor about yours.”
He looked at me, “I’ve got a little job for Jonesy here. Jonesy, since you are now the dayworker, I want you to make a new rope ladder. It has to be a really good one. I’ve got the rope, the rungs and the spunyarn, it’s got to be ready by Thursday morning when we pick up the Sydney harbour pilot.”
As the boatswain had said, I was the dayworker. Most of the deck crew were allocated to watches, four hours on and eight off, three men to a watch. There was usually one extra AB who was dayworker. The dayworker worked eight hours a day, five and half days a week and usually got all the best jobs. Most seamen seemed to prefer watches, though I could never understand why. I was to spend the next week leisurely making a super-duper rope ladder. Better than being on the bridge steering in the middle of the night or sitting on a baking hot steel deck, chipping rust. which is what the others would be doing.
“And by the way, Jonesy, I want you to finish it off with a Matthew Walker knot on each side at each end. That’s four in all”.
I knew that he was trying it on; expecting me to ask what a Matthew Walker knot was. I had learned to tie a Matthew Walker many years before when I was in the Sea Cadets, so I asked him, “Double or single, Bose?”
I guessed he would say double and I was delighted when he replied, “double”, because I had no idea how to do a single.
The only problem was that if you made a Matthew Walker towards the end of a rope you would need something at the very end. A whipping or a back-splice wouldn’t look very exciting so I asked him if he would like me to put a Turk’s Head on the ends instead of a whipping.
The deck boy started to look worried until Alec explained that we weren’t going to execute four of the Turkish firemen for the sake of a rope ladder
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  #2  
Old 25th January 2009, 23:57
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John Briggs John Briggs is offline  
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Finish it off Arthur, I like it!
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  #3  
Old 26th January 2009, 02:27
shipboard shipboard is offline  
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Yes Arthur finish it off. You are right no more wire splicing all come aboard with your yankee splice, mention a ozzie locking splice these days and you are talking language from another planet.

shipboard.
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  #4  
Old 26th January 2009, 03:59
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Great stuff Arthur. Keep it going mate!
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  #5  
Old 26th January 2009, 17:21
sidsal sidsal is offline  
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Just looked at Brown's Knots and Splices. Can't remember doing a Mathew Walker. I still use eye and back splices to the amazement of some. I used to have a palm and needle set with a wooden fid and steel marlin spike.
Long gone.
Happy days
Sid
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  #6  
Old 26th January 2009, 18:08
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Still got mine + a serving board and a ball of spunyarn. Could do a Matthew Walker too. Knowledge and materials of a bygone age.

Shell (Stanlow) still practised limited wire splicing in 1993. Although the vast majority of wire slings etc were made on site the 4 riggers in the main "loft" had a swauge machine to form the eye and create the splice. It was very much quicker and more strong than a traditional eye splice.

A representative sample of the finished wires would be proof tested to a factor of 6:1 the SWL

A new coil of wire would have a sample tested to destruction on the same machine under controlled conditions.

Usual "hand made" wires would be used in lowering and hoisting the flare tips .


BW

J.
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  #7  
Old 26th January 2009, 19:05
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Pat Kennedy Pat Kennedy is online now  
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Arthur,
I tried my hand at putting an eye splice in a length of wire I picked up off a diving crew working on Birkenhead Docks a few months ago. I found its like riding a bike, forty years since I last did it, and it was just like a fortnight .
The only thing was my fingers dont have the strength and dexterity they once had, but otherwise a piece of cake. It was nice getting the old knife and spike out again after all these years.
Best Regards,
Pat
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  #8  
Old 26th January 2009, 20:33
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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I have long regretted that when I left the sea I gave away my palm & needle as well as my knife and it's macramie-decorated sheath. I did have occasion to do a few wire splices when I worked for Waygood Otis installing escalators in Swan & Edgars, Piccadilly (in 1954). I made some wire slings from old lift ropes much to the surprise of the foreman. I still have occasion to make eye splices and back splices in small ropes. There is nothing quite like doing a splice in a big mooring rope though, is there,
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  #9  
Old 26th January 2009, 21:17
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I made a couple of bell ropes for friends a while back, and made a pair of rope bow fenders for a friend's narrowboat some years ago, that was an interesting little project, but I havent put a splice in a mooring rope since I was AB on the Agapenor in 1963.
Pat
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  #10  
Old 26th January 2009, 22:27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arthur Jenner View Post
I have long regretted that when I left the sea I gave away my palm & needle as well as my knife and it's macramie-decorated sheath. I did have occasion to do a few wire splices when I worked for Waygood Otis installing escalators in Swan & Edgars, Piccadilly (in 1954). I made some wire slings from old lift ropes much to the surprise of the foreman. I still have occasion to make eye splices and back splices in small ropes. There is nothing quite like doing a splice in a big mooring rope though, is there,
I could NEVER master the multi strand polyproplene moorings. Just could not manage it. Arthur- have you "done" these type.

Pat - do you recall the four stranded rope used in BF. Seem to recall it was refered to as "small stuff". What was it used for? I think it had a special application -the reason for which I can't recall either.

BW

J
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  #11  
Old 26th January 2009, 22:32
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I remember small stuff, but not what its designated use was. flag halyards maybe?
Pat
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  #12  
Old 26th January 2009, 22:41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat Kennedy View Post
I remember small stuff, but not what its designated use was. flag halyards maybe?
Pat

Yes halyards but there were other uses too. Memory is recalling "special duties" like sea bags and other fine stuff for the elite.
BW

J.
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  #13  
Old 26th January 2009, 22:47
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And, now I think of it, didnt we use small stuff for lashing the boat deck awnings, bridge dodgers etc.
Pat
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  #14  
Old 26th January 2009, 22:55
stevie burgess stevie burgess is offline  
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Have all my tools of the trade yet but seldom use them all except for the Swedish fid nowadays. Did quite a lot of fancy ropework years ago especially bellropes but not done so for nearly 10 years,still keep my hand in with the wire splicing though...required today or not i still enjoy doing it.
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  #15  
Old 26th January 2009, 22:56
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Bridge dodgers - yes. Dont recall the BD awnings although very likely.

Was it just to appease and please the favoured.

Could splice a 4 stranded rope - same as three stranded except the first tuck involved two strands.

BW

J
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  #16  
Old 26th January 2009, 23:02
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Stevie B

Not heard of the Swedish fid. How does it differ.

BW

J
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  #17  
Old 26th January 2009, 23:11
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Yes John, its coming back now, we used small stuff for all manner of tiddly jobs that required a neat finish, boat covers and that sort of thing.
Braided rope, now I never saw that while I was at sea, but I watched the riggers in Lairds splice it, and I was full of admiration. I dont think I would like to try it.
I do remember making a pilot ladder on one ship. The chippy made all the timber parts and I spent two days putting it all together, laid out on the foredeck crossing the Indian Ocean while the rest of the crowd were painting the forepart of the bridge, and the old lampy was sitting in the shade giving me unhelpful advice. Never been so contented in a job.
Pat
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  #18  
Old 26th January 2009, 23:32
ROBERT HENDERSON ROBERT HENDERSON is offline  
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PAT
You refer to small stuff in Blue Flue, is that the same as referred to as boat lacing in most other companies?

Regards Robert
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  #19  
Old 27th January 2009, 07:48
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I suppose it is Robert, it was I think, a generic term for anything smaller than heaving line. However, I dont want to be too dogmatic about it, it was a long time ago after all.
Pat
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Old 27th January 2009, 08:30
DURANGO DURANGO is offline  
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Quote:
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I suppose it is Robert, it was I think, a generic term for anything smaller than heaving line. However, I dont want to be too dogmatic about it, it was a long time ago after all.
Pat
Ah , the old Agapenor wonderful ship long gone now , worm and parcel with the lay turn and serve the other way ,
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Old 27th January 2009, 10:15
sidsal sidsal is offline  
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On one ship I was on the 2nd Mate decided to make an uniform out of canvas. He was a dab hand with the palm and needle and he did indeed make a creditable job of it. He sized it and painted it black and painted buttons on it. However he could hardly move in it as it was so stiff.
Daft beggar !!
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  #22  
Old 27th January 2009, 10:40
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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Originally Posted by jmcg View Post
I could NEVER master the multi strand polyproplene moorings. Just could not manage it. Arthur- have you "done" these type.

Pat - do you recall the four stranded rope used in BF. Seem to recall it was refered to as "small stuff". What was it used for? I think it had a special application -the reason for which I can't recall either.

BW

J
Multi strand polyproplene? Never heard of it. Our mooring ropes were usually four inch, three strand sisal or (I think) sometimes hemp.
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  #23  
Old 27th January 2009, 11:08
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Multi strand polyproplene? Never heard of it. Our mooring ropes were usually four inch, three strand sisal or (I think) sometimes hemp.
Arthur

I guess we would be all hard pressed to find Sisal, Manilla or Terylene mooring ropes nowadays. They are all Poly Prop. Came in in late 60's to my knowledge.

They were considered dangerous during mooring operations as you were not supposed to "surge" them on the winch or windlass drum. If you didnt "surge" (out of the mate or 2nd mates eye) the tension created on warping could cause heat build up and BANG - you lost the lot. No warning. Just the sound of rifle like fire.

Three turns only allowed on the drum end - any more and trouble you had as above.

Strong and versatile though and didn't break your back when wet.

BW

J.
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  #24  
Old 27th January 2009, 11:18
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dom

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmcg View Post
Arthur

I guess we would be all hard pressed to find Sisal, Manilla or Terylene mooring ropes nowadays. They are all Poly Prop. Came in in late 60's to my knowledge.

They were considered dangerous during mooring operations as you were not supposed to "surge" them on the winch or windlass drum. If you didnt "surge" (out of the mate or 2nd mates eye) the tension created on warping could cause heat build up and BANG - you lost the lot. No warning. Just the sound of rifle like fire.

Three turns only allowed on the drum end - any more and trouble you had as above.

Strong and versatile though and didn't break your back when wet.

BW

J.
as you say dangerous,nylon ropes had the habit of melting and sticking to the drumend when surged,never no more than three turns
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Old 28th January 2009, 11:33
DURANGO DURANGO is offline  
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as you say dangerous,nylon ropes had the habit of melting and sticking to the drumend when surged,never no more than three turns
I can well remember having to use a sledge hammer on nylon ropes on the Eleuthera to let go in Central America . just a thought when the rope hit the water the mozzies hit the ship and there we were in shorts and boots ,some of the deck crowd wore japanese sea boots the mozzies had a great time whilst we were trying to lash down the ropes

Last edited by DURANGO; 28th January 2009 at 11:38.. Reason: add
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