When we purchased Summer Dance, she had an odd assortment of line colors, mostly the original equipment, run of the mill white with blue tracer. But the main sheet was white with a red tracer, the jib sheet too, and the genoa sheet was white with a black tracer. The halyards in particular were difficult to tell apart unless they were in their proper places.
I wanted the line colors to be useful when I replaced all the running rigging this past winter. The research I did only vaguely helped. There seem to be as many standards for line colors as there are sailor’s opinions. Beyond red for port and green for starboard, there doesn’t seem to be much consensus, which is odd considering how specific the ABYC standards are about wiring colors. So I made up my own color scheme. Heck, if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em.
But black looks cool
I wound up with a color scheme that, together with the different line sizes, makes it relatively easy to identify each line at a glance. At least it seems logical to me but I’m a left-brain person. My hope is that it will also make sense to my right-brain first mate when I ask her to help with a line.
The general rules of my scheme are simple:
- The colors identify which sail the line directly affects: red on the port side (headsail), green on the starboard side (mainsail), blue for everything else.
- The amount of color identifies the line’s priority: solid colors for dynamic control lines (sail position, for example, sheets), white with colored tracer for static control lines (sail shape and rigging management, for example, halyards).
- The size of the line identifies its load: 1/4″ lines for light loads (jib downhaul, main reefing, tiller lock, etc.), 8mm or 5/16″ for heavy loads (halyards, vang, traveler, etc.), and 3/8″ lines for the most often handled lines (sheets). Obviously, the sizes are more dictated by the loads than by preference.
Practical examples of the application of this scheme are:
|What I want to say||What I would otherwise have to say|
|“Honey, could you please release the jib downhaul?”||“Loosen the little line with the red stripes that looks like a candy cane.”|
|“Prepare to come about.”||“Get ready to pull up on the fat red line that looks like a cherry Twizzler twisted around a silver salt shaker.”|
|“Ease the main before we broach!”||“Pull the fat green line out of that clamp thingy, let out some of the line until the boat leans back up, and then put it back into the clamp!”|
The results aren’t in yet on whether it made a difference. It’s cold and raining buckets as I write this. We probably won’t hang the Dacron for a few more weeks yet. Any bets?
The Bottom Line
Suggested price: Make ’em all the same color. Real sailors don’t need no steenking colors!
$tingy Sailor cost: So my boat looks like a sail by numbers kit. My wife’s sailing with me, where’s yours?
Savings: I don’t have to sell the boat because she hates sailing.
Using the three color scheme rules, can you guess the name of each line in the picture above?
(Answers: jib downhaul, jib halyard, jib sheet, boom vang, miscellaneous, main sheet, main halyard)