How to Whip a Line End Using the Oldest and Best Method

hands tying rope on a boat

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All lines, also known as ropes, on a boat will unravel and fray at the end unless the line end is treated in some manner.

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Anchor the End of the Whipping Twine

Whipping Step 1

Kate Derrick 

You can try tightly wrapping the end with tape, but tape usually rubs off or quickly disintegrates in working conditions. You can fuse the fibers of synthetic lines (nylon, polypropylene) with a flame, but the result is ugly, harsh on the hands, and often not long lasting. After hundreds of years of good seamanship, the historical method of whipping the line end with twine remains the best method and lasts the longest.

Whipping tightly binds the line’s fibers near the end. Because the line end actually becomes smaller when compressed beneath the whipping, the line will not bind in blocks or other sailboat gear.

All you need is whipping twine (usually a waxed synthetic) and a large needle to get started. Whipping is easy to learn if you follow these steps. Shown here is a double-braid line, but whipping works just as well with a standard three-strand twisted line.

Step one is to use a needle to pull the free end of the whipping twine through a bit of the line’s outer braid toward the free end of the line being whipped (to the right in this photo).

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Form a Loop in the Whipping Twine

Whipping Step 2

Kate Derrick

Form a loop in the whipping twine away from the free end of the line (to the left in this photo).

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Begin the First Wrap Around the Line

Whipping Step 3

Kate Derrick

While holding the twine loop in place with your thumb, make the first wrap of the whipping twine around the line.

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Start the Second Wrap

Whipping Step 4

Kate Derrick

Make the second wrap of the whipping twine alongside the first wrap, just to the left.

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Continue Wrapping the Whipping Twine

Whipping Step 5

Kate Derrick

Continue wrapping the whipping twine. Pull each wrap tight, positioning each wrap alongside the one before it, moving farther to the left.

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Complete the Last Wrap

Whipping Step 6

Kate Derrick

Wrap the whipping twine until it has covered a distance 1 to 1½ times the diameter of the line being whipped.

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Cut the Twine and Bring the End Through the Loop

Whipping Step 7

Kate Derrick

Now cut the twine a couple inches from the last wrap, and bring its cut end through the loop.

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Pull the Whipping Twine Tight

Whipping Step 8

Kate Derrick

While holding the cut end with one hand (on the left), pull the original end (on the right). Pulling makes the loop smaller until the loop begins to pull beneath the wrappings.

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Pull the Loop Under the Wrappings

Whipping Step 9

Kate Derrick

Continue pulling the twine (from the right) as you watch the loop being pulled along beneath the wrappings. Pull until you see it about halfway through the coil of wrappings.

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Trim the Twine and Line End

Whipping Step 10

Kate Derrick

Carefully cut off both ends of the whipping twine flush with the coil of wrappings. Then trim the line end about one-fourth of an inch from the coil.

Now you have a neatly whipped line end that will not continue to fray or unravel or chafe on gear. This is a sign of an accomplished sailor who cares about his or her boat and equipment—a true marlinspike sailor!

An alternative to whipping with a thread as described here, Starbrite’s Dip-It Whip-It liquid whipping may have some advantages.

Other basic sailing knots can also come in handy when you're out on a boat.