The Blue View: Recycling Old Line into Ocean Plait Mats


On Nine of Cups, there is not a single piece of rope that is actually called rope. We have halyards, sheets, outhauls, vangs, preventers, reefing pendants, dock lines, snubbers, anchor rode, painters and lanyards, but no rope. Even a coiled, spare section of rope is called “line” and not rope.

Some mariners will say rope becomes line as soon as it is brought aboard a boat. Others say it is rope until it is cut from the spool. I've also seen a definition that states that it is only called rope if it is greater than a given diameter, otherwise it is generically called line. By any of these definitions, we have no rope aboard Cups. I couldn't always make this claim. A few years ago we had an outhaul made of stainless wire that is called wire rope. So we did have some “rope” aboard, even though it was made of stainless, but even this “rope” has now been replaced with synthetic line.

While we may not have any rope aboard, we do have many hundreds of feet of line on Cups, and all this line is constantly wearing out, due to chafe, UV, fatigue and old age. We probably replace two hundred feet of line a year. So what do we do with all the old line that is no longer usable? It seems a shame to just throw it away.

One of the uses for old lines is to make Ocean Plait mats or rugs. Traditionally these mats were used aboard ships as chafing gear. We sometimes use them for the same purpose, to protect the deck from being damaged when setting a propane tank on it, for example. They also make nice welcome mats on the dock to wipe our feet before coming aboard and they're are easy on the feet when we have to stand at the helm for long periods. They are very nautical and quite attractive, and make great gifts. You can use small line, 1/8” diameter or so to make coaster sized mats, or large line, 3/4” or so to make rugs.

My old friend, The Ashley Book of Knots, describes how to make the Ocean Plait mat (“Ocean Plat” knot #2243). I started with his directions to make the pattern shown below.




I make so many, I drew the pattern onto plywood, and drove finishing nails into the plywood to help hold the line in place. You could also put nails or tacks into a piece of cardboard, or just print out the pattern on paper.




You will need about 45 feet of line for a reasonable sized mat made of 1/2” to 3/4” line. Find the middle of the line and start on the left side of the pattern as shown.




Follow the pattern, paying close attention at each intersection as to whether the line passes over or under itself.




After you complete the first pass of the pattern, check to make sure your mat is correct. It's much easier to undo it and correct a mistake at this stage than it will be later.




When you are happy with the first pass, take the end of line A and follow line B as shown in Figure 5, doubling the knot.




Depending on the line size, you will make 3-5 passes to complete the mat. You want the ends to meet in the middle of the mat.




You will have to tighten and loosen some of the loops until the rug looks even and symmetrical, then cut and whip the ends. Stitch the ends to the adjoining line segments and you are done.




Patience is key. My first mat took hours and I pulled it back apart several times because of mistakes. Now I can make a mat in about 30 minutes.

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