The halyard is the rope or wire attached to the top corner of a sail or a flag on a flag pole. The term halyard is said to be from two different sources: one is the Middle-English word hallyer which is a hoist or pull; second is from sailors saying to “haul the yard” shortened to halyard for ease and speed.
To make a halyard… well the easiest way is to buy one and then rig it up, but if you are determined to make your own halyard then here is how.
First a halyard is rope, so the basics of rope making will be employed. To make a halyard first decide what size and thickness you need; usually they come from 1/8in. to 7/16 in. thick so gather enough material to reach your desired thickness and length.
Traditionally halyards are made of natural materials like hemp, but they are also made from nylon, propylene (Dacron) and polypropylene. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these synthetic materials. Nylon stretches up to 20 percent, Dacron stretches little but is stronger, and polypropylene floats.
Whichever material you choose to make a halyard, make sure it is in thin fibers and long enough for the job, though you can always splice in some more if it turns out too short. Divide your strands into three equal piles and tie them together with enough material at the top to tie to something sturdy like a chair, a post or a cleat on the boat.
There are three different ways to fabricate a rope to make a halyard. The first way is to twist the fibers into yarn, counterclockwise, and the yarn into strands, clockwise. Then turning counterclockwise again twist the strands into rope.
Another way is called single braid. Follow the same steps for the twist until you have strands, then weave or braid the strands into a rope. This creates a more balanced rope without a twist to it, but it will flatten under a lot of tension.
The last way to make a halyard is the double braid which is more difficult. It involves weaving several strands around an already made rope. It is stronger but less flexible, and allows you to combine several materials together.
Congratulations you have almost made a halyard. The ends are frayed so you will need to “whip” them. Whipping can be done a few ways, the popular way is to use duct or electrical tape around the ends and then melt it with a hot knife. The traditional way of whipping involves sewing and can be learned from a good knot book.
Now it is rope. To make a halyard, tie a bowline or attach a clamp, attach it to the top of the sail or flag, rig it up, and hoist away.