How to Rig a Pulley

A rope that's going up when it needs to go down cries out for a simple way to change direction.

The humble pulley serves admirably aboard a boat.The humble pulley serves admirably aboard a boat.
The pulley, a wheel with a channel in its rim to accommodate a rope, answers that problem. Known as a "fairlead" to professional seamen, a pulley can be rigged with dispatch---some, called "snatch blocks," are fully-enclosed, permanently-mounted pulleys with a side that swings open, allowing the rope to be set on the pulley.

Secure the pulley to a stable surface at the point where the rope that will be riven through it---reeving is the name for the process of rigging rope through a pulley---needs to change direction.

Insert the end of the rope between the wheel and the frame of the pulley. The rope should rest on the sheave---the wheel of the pulley---rather than the frame.

Continue pulling the rope through the pulley and toward its destination---the object to be moved, or the object to which the rope is to be secured.


  • The hook or ring atop the pulley can be tied in place or attached to a permanent mounting fixture.


  • The single pulley has no advantage when moving a weight; it merely changes the direction of the rope.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.