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. None of the colors gave you a clue as to what a line was used for. The halyards in particular were difficult to tell apart unless they were in their proper places.
After you know your sailboat so well that you can sail her in the dark, colors don’t matter, of course. But when you have crew onboard that don’t know your sailboat so well, they need all the help they can get to identify your lines.
When I set about to replace all the running rigging, I wanted the line colors to be useful. 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 most sailing rules are. 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 readers.
The general rules of my line color 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. This also helps newbies remember port from starboard just by looking at the lines hanging on the cockpit bulkhead.
- The amount of color identifies the line’s importance: 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, mainsail 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.
Here are some practical examples of how this scheme helps when sailing with my wife, the first mate:
|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!”|
In reality, it hasn’t made that big of a difference to her, but a guy’s gotta try, right?
Using the three color scheme rules above, can you guess the purpose of each line in the picture?
(Answers: jib downhaul, jib halyard, jib sheet, boom vang, miscellaneous, main sheet, main halyard)