Tell Tales, our blog from the rope locker.

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  1. How to Care for Natural Manila Rope

    Manila Rope

     Manila was used on ships in the past

    Manila rope is otherwise known as manila hemp and it is created from the abaca plant, which is closely related to the banana plant.

    It was highly prized in the days of sail, it has been replaced by synthetic fibres on boats nowadays, but a lot of traditional knot tyers still like to use it to make fenders and door stops.

    It is a sustainable crop that can stop soil erosion and help to regenerate deforested areas. Our manila comes from the Phillipines, as does 85% of the world's production, the name itself comes from their capital city.

    This rope is a natural plant fibre, which is very durable, but doesn't like to be kept damp, best kept in a dry place to prevent mildew. It isn't really suitable for outdoor use.

    Being a natural fibre, it is affected by environmental conditions. When wet, it shrinks and tightens,(5 to 10%), and when warm and dry it becomes loose.

    Vacuuming is the best way to clean manila.
    If necessary it is possible to wash the rope gently by hand with a mild soap agitated in warm water, using just the lather to clean the rope, then wipe any dirt off with a clean damp cloth or sponge. Dry naturally on a dry day, out of direct sunshine.
    I like to use manila for brushes or deck swabs, and fenders.
    It can have a too strong aroma for my baskets or mats, as oil is often used to make the ropemaking easier if it has been a dry growing season. A lot of people like the smell, especially if they remember it from when it was used before modern ropes. It is stiffer than jute, I prefer to wear gloves when using manila, as any splinters can get infected. 
  2. Keeping My Corner Of The Sea Plastic Free

    Coronavirus has probably led to less floating rubbish for the moment.

    I once tried to teach very young children how to dance the minuet, they were very keen because The Wombles were at the top of the pop charts with Minuetto Allegretto. I was more a fan of their litter picking and recycling habits in the children's  programme rather than their music. I think of myself now as a sort of water womble.

    Most days I 'patrol' for 5 to 10 mins, picking up plastic and polystyrene  in a small corner of Falmouth harbour.

    So far this Spring and early Summer, the floating rubbish has been a lot less than this time last year. No organised events nearby due to Covid-19 meant no plastic beer glasses and polystyrene takeaway boxes. Fewer storms in March and April, saw less rain washing litter into the harbour and no strong winds blowing bins around.


    A lot of the plastic I collect is full of sea squirts and algae, and looks like it has been floating for a long time. I read recently in the Hakai magazine that at Queens University in Northern Ireland research has found that 98% of marine plastics that they tested were harbouring antibiotic resistant bacteria.  See original article here .

    Plastic debris is so extensive in our seas, that it is becoming a new habitat and ecosystem. It also could be seriously stopping light to lower levels, which must have a detrimental affect on sea floor habitats

    Decomposing plastics may even be attracting tube-nose seabirds like kittiwakes as they emit similar gases to large amounts of krill or plankton. Other seabirds who normally digest algae are possibly eating plastics due to the same DMS gases. Science magazine article by Sid Perkins here

     Unfortunately there will be plenty of floating rubbish in our oceans to investigate these theories for many years to come.

    I can see how turtles think that plastic bags are their food, I once picked up a jellyfish thinking it was piece of cellophane. It is very sad, but I don't think we have had a sail for years without seeing a plastic bottle or bag.

    Old landfills were often sited near the coast and the higher sea levels are eroding them away. Crisps packets over 20 years old have been found on beaches virually intact. I remember sitting on a beach in Gibraltar with my parents in the 90's and a dustbin truck tipped it's load yards away from the Mediterranean sea. Since 2003 Gibraltar has sent its waste into Spain after facing condemnation from Spanish environmental groups and the EU.

    I think Sir David Attenborough's many TV programmes have made a lot of people reconsider what they buy and how it is packaged. Plastic is an amazing material, but making it for a single use to then be thrown away is madness.

    Hopefully the harbour will continue to improve after the pandemic. I have noticed fewer straws and cotton buds over the last year. Now with them being outlawed, it will be even better, I hope one day we can do without plastic chocolate bar wrappers and crisp packets.

    Falmouth has a great community and many of the local businesses have joined the Plastic Free Falmouth campaign. This group has really made a difference, cleaning the rivers and harbour, asking local cafes to consider change their straws and takeaway packaging.

    It is amazing how a few people can make a big difference. Check out their Facebook page

    Plastic Free Eco Preneurs

    Now that we are all more used to shopping online, it is easier to find plastic free alternatives from small businesses such as :

    Planet Detox

    Plastic Detox make wonderful smelling household cleaning products, as well as personal toiletries, all without harsh detergents or plastic packaging. Using natural oils like lemon, lavender, thyme, tea tree and rose geranium,  it is like aromatherapy whilst you clean! I can recommend the Lemon Syllabub dish washing up bar, it smells delicious.


    Pom Pom

    Need to find imaginative childeren's gifts games and toys without the plastic? Have a wander around Pom Pom. Beautifully crafted wooden toys that are unique.



    A vegan alternative to cling film, made with beautifully patterned fabric to take on picnics or to work.