Re: Photo: Flatcar With Rope Load

Ralph W. Brown

Hi John,
Let me start be saying that I started sailing and operating power boats in high school, and subsequently spent sixteen years in the Navy and then the Coast Guard.  I was quite proficient in marlinspike seamanship, and still find uses for it.  I was also one of a small crew that rigged the USCGC Eagle in the Spring of ‘65 and again in ‘66. 
What we are seeing in this photo is a carload of “line,” probably 8” manila.  “Line” in common maritime parlance has multiple meanings.  “Lines” can refer to running rigging (sheets, clewlines, etc.), heaving lines, leadlines, lifelines, mooring lines, and others.  “Single up all lines” specifically refers to mooring lines, as you’ve noted.  Line, however, is also used collectively to refer to so many feet, yards, lengths, or coils of line, typically of a particular size.  “Rope,” in maritime parlance, generally refers to steel wire cable, and not to manila or other fiber line. 
Perhaps the nomenclature has become less strict in recent years, but it certainly wasn’t in my experience and it’s difficult for me to believe it was any less strict at the time that photo was taken.  We may just to agree to disagree on this.
Ralph Brown
Portland, Maine
PRRT&HS No. 3966
NMRA No. L2532


From: John Mateyko
Sent: Friday, March 26, 2021 5:29 PM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Photo: Flatcar With Rope Load

[Edited Message Follows]

Ralph,  With all due respect I am pretty sure when the item in questioned is ordered, it is referred to as rope.  Once on board, spliced per custom of the vessel and put to use it is then referred to as a specific line.  The same piece of 8" rope could be used once as a bow line, the next time as a spring line, another time as a breast line and another as a stern line.  When the captain orders. "Single up all lines" all lines which have been doubled up have one of those lines brought aboard.  When the captain orders, "Take in the stern breast line" every crew member in the docking/undocking party knows which specific line that is.  After leaving the dock/pier/wharf the chief mate will pass the order to stow all lines(they are still on deck in their most recently used area) into the Rope Locker, the lines are put into the rope locker.  The last one in may have been used as the stern line.  The next time, it would be the first piece out and more than likely will become either the forward line or the forward breast line.
By the way sir, how many years did you serve aboard a big ship's deck department?
John Mateyko

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