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Old 23-10-2012, 00:45   #16
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Re: Cow Hitch on Headsail Sheets ?

I reckon you'd get the cow hitch undone with no damage if you were patient. I did one once after 6 years of heavy strain in 16mm dacron double braid (premium quality).
I first soaked it in cold water for a while, changing the water, to extract the worst of the dried salt (which softens it considerably) Then a few warm cycles, the last with a splash of dishwashing liquid (the old school sort, NOT washing machine stuff).

Then it was a matter of 'breaking the back"*, alternating with wriggling a small fid through, under the 'arch', along the groove between the parallel standing parts.

A fid with a slender point and a long slow taper is good. Any metal turner can whip you one up out of stainless. Tell them it's "OK to reposition the compound several times" if they say they don't have a taper turning attachment. This would not be kosher for most tapers a machine shop produces, but more than adequate for a fid. (Possibly this is more of a marlinespike - I can never remember the diff)

*Breaking the back refers to forcing the 'arch' away from the clew, while hanging onto the two elements of the standing part.
If you have a portable vice (or can take the sail to a fixed vice) this is a lot easier

Thumbs are what I used to break the back, I used to have a strong pair, but I didn't have much left in the way of fingerprints by the end of this particular job: now I'd be inclined to use a rubber mallet. Failing a vice, a sandbag on the foredeck is nearly as good. (well, fairly good)

NB: The vice needs smooth jaws, or thick adhesive tape applied to soften the diamond knurling's potential to damage the fibres, maybe aluminium tape if you have it, or rubber rather than plastic which is obviously slippery
either way is a lot more convenient than smooth packers, because the rope will keep needing to be regripped as it slips, but proper 'soft jaws' would be fine.

The same method (breaking the back) works for other knots, especially a bowline (or its structural equivalent, the sheet bend) which can -- if you have unlimited time -- virtually always be undone regardless of duration and/or strain

ON EDIT: I'd skimmed the last couple of posts - looks like the marlinespike has been thorougly canvassed. Never thought of using a billfish bill - talk about exotic.

I'm a softy though, mine would have to have died of natural causes, incl predation by any other predator than my fellow top predators.
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Old 23-10-2012, 01:09   #17
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Re: Cow Hitch on Headsail Sheets ?

G'Day Minaret,

Wonderful!! I love it... the true blue Marlin spike. I'd never heard of that usage, but it sure looks good and I'm happy to believe that they work as well as you say. Not in the market for one right now, but thanks for the offer. I will keep my eyes open for the opportunity to get a hold of a bill so as to make my own. We're not serious fishermen on Insatiable, so the chances of scoring a Marlin are slim, but I see Marlin steaks on offer at the fish mongers now and then, so not ALL captured marlin are mounted on fishermens walls, and there must be some spikes lying about somewhere.

I'm reminded that on our first trip to Cabo (1986) a fellow yottie was returning to their boat in the dark (long before the place descended into the condo hell it is now). They ran over a floating Marlin carcass that had been jettisoned after weighing, and the bill punctured their inflatable!

Now back to your regular scheduled program...

Jim
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Old 23-10-2012, 01:27   #18
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Re: Cow Hitch on Headsail Sheets ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
G'Day Minaret,

Wonderful!! I love it... the true blue Marlin spike. I'd never heard of that usage, but it sure looks good and I'm happy to believe that they work as well as you say. Not in the market for one right now, but thanks for the offer. I will keep my eyes open for the opportunity to get a hold of a bill so as to make my own. We're not serious fishermen on Insatiable, so the chances of scoring a Marlin are slim, but I see Marlin steaks on offer at the fish mongers now and then, so not ALL captured marlin are mounted on fishermens walls, and there must be some spikes lying about somewhere.

I'm reminded that on our first trip to Cabo (1986) a fellow yottie was returning to their boat in the dark (long before the place descended into the condo hell it is now). They ran over a floating Marlin carcass that had been jettisoned after weighing, and the bill punctured their inflatable!

Now back to your regular scheduled program...

Jim
I doubt there are many bills lying around, this is a very old tradition. Most serious offshore fishermen of the type that catch Marlin proffesionally already know this. The oval cross section is the key, you insert the spike and then twist (roll, not pitch or yaw). Then insert it a bit deeper and twist again (like a screwdriver), and repeat as needed. This will open the most stubborn knot very quickly, even when it's cold and soaking wet. One of the beauties of this method is that it doesn't rely on brute force applied in a stabbing motion, therefore it is much safer when done on a rolling deck. You are never pushing the point hard towards anything, instead you rely on the leverage of the twisting motion. Andrew is right too, a little mallet work can really help. A round tapered spike is not anywhere near as good, it will leave you frustrated. It truly is Nature's answer to a frozen knot.

Andrew, the difference between a Fid and a spike is that the Fid is hollow for splicing. It is also a regulation length for the size of rope involved, for marking tapers. So you need a set of Fids of different sizes to splice different size lines. Not meant for rough work like breaking knots at all.
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