There was a question on a forum about what would be recommended for a security cable to lock the canoe or kayak for overnight or while you’re touring or at the grocery. A number of options were offered about bike cables and chains, etc., but I’d like to offer what I feel is the better option. Get a compression swaging tool. Like any good tool, there’s the initial outlay, but it will last a lifetime, and its versatility is only limited by your imagination. Instead of having to settle with what might just do, you can tailor the security cable to exactly fit your needs for the size of eye, placement of eyes, length, cable strength, and where you may want abrasion protection.
As for stainless steel cable, it can often be found for free. When sailboat rigging starts to age, it may fatigue at the terminal fittings, strands may break leaving meat-hooks in the wire, the wire may kink or unlay, or it may just be replaced because of age. The wire may no longer be useful for rigging, but is perfectly fine for other applications. If you live along the coast or Great Lakes, you will find rigging shops that throw cable away in up to forty and fifty foot lengths. There are several types of wire rope. There is 1x19, 7x7, and 7x19. The first number is the number of strands in a rope, the second the number of wires in each strand. This understanding is important to identify the type you are looking for. The 1x19 is used for standing rigging, and is so stiff as to be useless for our application here. The 7x7 has moderate flexibility. The 7x19 is very flexible, but just as strong. It is used for running rigging such as luff wires in sails and wire halyards. It is great for a security cable because it can easily be run around thwarts and seats and lead back on itself. If you find where a boat’s lifelines have been replaced, they use a 7x19 wire coated with a vinyl cover that is great for protecting both hands and the varnished or glass surfaces of the boat. If you end up having to buy your wire rope, the covered cable is the way to go. You then just strip off the vinyl where the compression sleeve needs to be. If the vinyl cover has become brittle and cracked on old wire rope, it can be removed and replaced with hose. On my security cable, I ran it through ¼” diesel fuel hose. There is hose that is cheaper than that, much, but I just happened to have lots of fuel hose on hand. I put an eye in each end. If a wire breaks, it will stick out of the strand, and for good reason is call a meat-hook. When that happens you have two choices---wrap some tape around the hook, or cut the section out and make a new eye. You’ll notice a piece of tape on one of the eyes for just this reason. The sections of parachute cord are used to keep the cable in a nice compact coil so it is easy to stow and isn’t slithering all over the boat.
The cable can be lead and the two eyes padlocked together, or if you need more length, lead the cable around a strong point in the boat and pull it all through the eye in one end, then loop the other end around a pole, pipe, piling, etc., and lock the eye to the cable itself. If you haven’t used swage compression sleeves before, they are shaped like an open figure-8. Run the wire through one loop of the eight, then back and through the other loop to form an eye in the wire. Adjust the exit wire in the compression sleeve so the cut wire end is even or very slightly recessed into the sleeve. In this way, there are no sharp wires exposed to cut the hands. Put the sleeve in the compression tool, tighten it down, and you’re done. When you’re done securing the canoe, you can make cables for all your bikes, lawn mower, spare tires, trailer, outboard motor, gates, dog kennel---just have a ball!
Happy paddlin', Jim