The arts of a sailor such as serving, splicing and knotting is fast becoming a dying art: skills are lost, tools are harder to come by, and sailors seem to have less and less wish to whittle or turn out their own. Drugged by the power of smartphones, social media, the fo’c’sle has become a very different place than when I started life at sea 20 years ago.
One of the first arts we would learn was serving a splice. Aboard sailing ships much of the wire rigging would be parcelled and served, rope eyes and strop-blocks all dressed smartly in turns of marlin. Today, even though materials are modern and hardier, serving is still an important task to learn, finished off with a waterproofing of linseed oil and tar offering the appearance of a well-dressed ship.
TO WORM AND SERVE A ROPE – TAKEN FROM THE RIGGERS GUIDE & SEAMANS ASSISTANT – PUBLISHED 1877.
Set up your work between two points and heave taught.
Worming the rope is to fill up the vacant space between the strands of the rope with spun yarn in order to render the surface smooth and round for parceling.
Parceling a rope is wrapping old canvas round it, cut into strips two or three inches wide according to the size of the rope.
The parcelling is put on with the lay of the rope.
The service is of spun yarn, put or hove on by a wooden mallet; it has a score in the under part according to the size of the rope so as to lay comfortably on the rope.
The serving is always laid on against the lay of the rope, a man passes a ball of spun yarn taking the turns well out of it at some distance from the man that is serving the rope; when the required length is put on, the end is passed under the last 6 turns and hauled taught before cutting off.