Raw hemp fiber
However, hemp rope needed to be tarred in order to protect its integrity from heat, rain and salty ocean water. So in stepped manila hemp (called such but it isn't actually hemp) made from the fibers of the Abaca plant (in the banana family) and is the strongest of the natural fibers. It is stronger, more durable, and more flexible than hemp.
Abaca fiber drying
I recently made a trip to Mystic, Connecticut to visit with my friends Rick and Lynne who drove up from New Jersey and we visited Mystic Seaport which exhibits a portion of the original buildings of the Plymouth Cordage Company's ropewalk built in 1824. The original building was over 1,000 feet long (needed to make a 600 foot rope). Natural fibers are first spun into yarn, many yarns are spun together to make a strand. then three strands are twisted in the opposite direction to form rope.
Yarns spun together to make a strand
Strands spun together to form rope
A lot of rope is needed for sailing ships - such as the Joseph Conrad, a square rigged ship, built in 1882 in Copenhagen.
The Joseph Conrad is also on exhibit in Mystic Seaport. More about my trip to Mystic in the next post.