What is a floating rope?
A floating rope is any rope that floats when in water. It is most commonly used as a piece of safety equipment, in water rescues, and in mooring or towing in wet conditions, however it can be used whenever you need a lightweight rope that won't absorb water. You will find that a floating safety line is now mandatory in many racing conditions and an essential part of any boating kit. Floating rope is affordable and versatile and makes a regular appearance in marine and fishing industries thanks to its impressive performance when wet, and its low price per metre.
How does a floating rope differ from a regular rope?
Majority of ropes are made with polyester or nylon materials, or a combination of the two. For example, you may find a rope with a nylon core and a polyester sheath, or vice versa. This is because these materials have impressive tensile strength, good endurance and are relatively abrasion and UV resistant. Depending on their construction, polyester and nylon ropes can have low or high elongation properties and are considered to be very reliable lines. Both dynamic and static climbing ropes can be made with polyester or nylon.
However, neither nylon nor polyester can float in water so they are not ideal as a safety rope. Polypropylene and polyethylene can. Floating ropes are made with either of polyethene or polypropylene fibres because of their floating properties and low weight. In water rescues, these properties are essential as you may need to throw a line some distance while ensuring it stays visible to both yourself and the individual or vessel in distress. Polypropylene is more common, partly because it is more affordable, with a lower price per metre. Polyethylene will generally be used for smaller ropes.
It is worth reinforcing that while floating rope can have a lot of uses, it has a lower tensile strength compared to some other materials, so should never be used for climbing or hauling a heavy load. You may see polypropylene rope promoted as being good for use in winch devices on ships but be careful - the rope they are referring to is not a floating rope, even though the product information sounds the same. If you plan on purchasing a rope for application in dock lines and on commercial vessels, you must be sure you select a high-strength polypropylene option with a higher break load; a regular floating rope will not be suitable.
Orders within the United Kingdom also come with free delivery so contact one of our rope experts today for more information on any items.
What are the properties of a floating rope?
In addition to being able to float, polypropene rope has many other properties that make it a popular choice in a wide range of rope categories:
Its wet strength is equal to dry strength - while many materials will weaken when exposed to water, floating rope maintains the same level of tensile strength.
It has good buoyancy and does not absorb water - some nylon rope will absorb 40% of its weight in water, and polyester rope will absorb around half this amount. Floating rope however does not absorb water, so its weight does not change once wet, keeping it light and easy to throw as a safety rope.
It is flexible and this flexibility is maintained even after frequent application in wet environments
Easy to handle - for rescue and towing purposes you need to be able to comfortably and quickly handle the rope, without fear of it slipping from your hands or out of boat loop when attached to a load.
Polypropene is resistant to most chemicals, acid and organic solvents, which is one of the reasons it is popular as a line in various industries. This enhances its durability and reliability when being used in warehouses or docks around all sorts of chemical solutions.
Can hold and form knots easily, so it can be quickly fastened to buoys or vessels as a marker rope or painter rope. Similarly, it can be securely tied onto lifebuoys.
Acts as an insulator as it is resistant to electricity, so it is often carried by technicians working near phone or electricity masts.
Lastly, polypropylene has a low density of textile fibres, which is what makes it lightweight and helps keep the rope floating.
While there is a long list of impressive properties regarding floating ropes, there are a few less positive features to point out. It is important to note these so you don't purchase an item that cannot be used in the way you intended.
Although floating ropes are resistant to many chemicals, these ropes have a poor level of UV resistance, so it is best to store them in the shade whenever possible. After continued exposure to the sunlight, the fibres will start to weaken, reducing the lifetime and performance of the rope. Many floating ropes will be treated with colour or a protective coating to try and limit the damage caused by UV light. However, bear in mind that if you have brightly coloured lines or flecks (as you should for a rescue floating rope) the UV exposure will cause the colours to fade quickly so you will need to keep a close eye on their condition.
Floating ropes are difficult to bond, so can be difficult to paint, and polypropylene is also quite flammable so it is not the best to use in high temperatures.
Floating rope construction
Polypropylene ropes come in two constructions; braided or kernmantle (sometimes called coated).
Braided rope is created by braiding 16 or more strands together. Each strand usually has a diameter of 5cm or less, and because of the variation you can have in the number of strands and their thickness, these ropes are available in a vast range of diameters. The twill pattern that is formed on the surface of a braided rope also gives the opportunity to create bright colour combinations. Braided polypropylene rope is common in the marine industry, for fishing nets, towing and mooring.
Kernmantle rope is constructed in two sections; the core and the cover or sheath. The core of a polypropylene rope will often be made with approximately twelve strands and the coating with over 16 strands that can be a variety of colours. The two sections are not connected to each other and can be made from different types of material to achieve the acquired properties. The kernmantle gives you a strong core and an easy to hold, abrasion-resistant sheath.
On land, a rescue rope or safety rope will commonly be made with a nylon or polyamide core and covered by a polyester sheath. While this is great for search and rescue onshore, it doesn't work so well for boat trips and sea rescues. A floating rope made with polypropylene is best for water rescues.
Our floating rope for water rescue is available in three different diameters and is made from multi-filament polypropylene. It is light enough to float, and the bright yellow colour with red fleck give it excellent visibility. Additionally, it is great value for money.
All of Access Ropes floating, rescue and painter options are available either in bright colours or with reflective strips and flecks for increased visibility and conform to the required safety standards. Please do not hesitate to call us today to discuss any of our products.
When is floating rope used?
As floating rope is reasonable strong, flexible, lightweight and very affordable, it can be used in a wide range of applications. It is popularly used in yachts and dinghies, as well as for safety lines.
Our Southern Ropes Floating Rope comes as a 30 metre, bright orange, braided polyethylene. This is ideal for use as a throw line or as a painter or dinghy line.
A painter rope is a rope that is attached to small boats or dinghies. It usually ties onto a loop on the bow of your boat and can act as a tow rope or can secure you to a launch trolley if needed. These ropes are also often used to secure boats or kayaks to docks or moorings. A painter rope will need to be lightweight and relatively small in terms of diameter, which is why the 8mm floating rope, that weights 1kg for 30m of length is ideal. Generally speaking, painters will be slightly stretchy and brightly coloured to maintain visibility. In addition, they should hold knots and fit through a boat loop. Pulling boats along a shallow waterway with a painter line is a common way to guide a canoe along a shoreline. The painter rope support means that an individual is able to control the canoe or kayak's position and direction through paddling, while it is being pulled forward. This is especially useful in stronger current that would normally overpower the boat.
A dinghy rope is another line that is used for a small sailing boat. However, this is a more generic term that refers to a wide range of different ropes that are used in sailing. Dinghy ropes can include sheets, floating ropes, halyards and outhauls, whereas a painter rope has a more specific purpose - for towing or securing vessels in a specific location.
Our Floating Rope for Water Rescue works exceptionally well as a painter line or for use as a rescue rope. It is made from multi-filament polypropylene; this works as a painter ropes because it has a specific gravity of less than 1.0, so it can float on water, so ideal for use in the sea. It is easy to handle and comes in 6mm, 8mm and 10mm diameters, with break loads of 600kg ,900kg and 1300kg respectively. This is a lightweight rope that is highly visible and can be used in marine rescue operations, towing or attaching to buoys.
Floating ropes are not performance ropes, so while they aren't suitable for all professional racing applications, they have very reasonable price points, making them very appealing as multi-purpose lines.
We have a range of high-quality products in stock, and we offer free delivery within the United Kingdom. Visit our product information pages or call us today for advice or info on the right ropes for you.