Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rope Wheel Cover

Livia and Carol, living aboard s/v Estrellita 5.10b in the south pacific, have replaced the leather on their wheel with lacing...  it took nearly 180 feet of quarter inch line!
Our leather wheel cover had slowly evolved from “weathered” to “salty” to “embarrassing”. P1020061Yet, we didn’t replace it until it busted open – good cruisers that we are. I had been keeping my eyes peeled for leather wheel covers in the automotive section of various hardware stores until I saw a simple rope wheel cover on a forum. There are quite elaborate rope work options for covering your wheel but I wasn’t really willing to put more than a day of my life into the project and so simple it was.

I bought 60 meters of 4mm nylon line and ended up with some leftover.
P1020065First we stripped off the old leather cover which left bits of itself stuck to the stainless wheel and had to be scrubbed off.

Then I tied the nylon line to one of the spokes and began wrapping. When I reached the next spoke I tucked the line down, half way around the spoke, and then back up onto the wheel, and started wrapping in the opposite direction. Each time I finished a pie wedge, I milked the line tight before transiting the spoke.

Two things I wish I had done at this point were: 1) put the line on a hand spool of some sort, such as you use for handline fishing to make the wrapping easier and 2) not bothered to wet the line when I started and rather just wet it later in the process.
P1020066Hours later when I had finished the wheel I tied the two ends together with a square knot and wet the entire wheel. Then I started half way around the wheel from the knot and milked the line toward the knot and retied the line taking up the slack. Then I went back to the half way point and milked the line the other way.

I’m leaving the square knot for now until I milk the line another time or two and then will probably whip the two bitter ends together and then put something decorative over the whipping.

P1020067Tip: I set things up so that the knot is at the wheel’s top when the rudder is centered. When I put the decorative bit this will help us find that center by feel.


  1. I did much the same job 5-years ago, the night before our delivery trip home with our new boat; it was Christmas and the SS wheel was damn cold. We have also added this to a few vertical SS posts where grip was lacking. On horizontal rails smooth sliding is generally a good thing.

    My one tip is that vinyl-coated gardening gloves make milking the line around much easier; super grip.

  2. I am planning do the the very same thing for the very same reason, but I have been told that you must finish the job with a coat of varnish (?), otherwise the wheel very quickly gets grubby from dirty hands etc. I assume the varnish/polyurethane soaks into the line and protects it. Perhaps a coat of 3M fabric protector would do the same thing.


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