OK, enough of the theory and philosophy I blathered on about in the first chapters of this book.
In this chapter I will write about two requirements in our quest to stay aboard and the gear and procedures we use to satisfy them: reach and continuity of attachment.
John, an excellent and thorough post…and I look forward to its continuation, as thinking on these topics surrounding “staying aboard in all conditions” is, as you point out, currently evolving.
I have a question, however: When you say “we will forgo the added convenience of a rigging system if it impinges on this requirement”, to what convenient rigging system are you referring?
One example would be a boom brake which, at least on our boat, would require leading the line over the jackline. Another might be one of those slick lazy runner retrieval systems you see.
That’s just two that come to mind, the point being that a free run on the jacklines is sacrosanct to us.
OK, thanks. Sacrosanct is not a bad thing, particularly if you consider sailing a more religious experience than any lubberly church attendance. I assume the ban on jackline interference would likely include preventers, as well, I suppose. No wonder you’ve put a lot of thought into your reefing set-up!
Actually, depending on how we are set up, our boom control tackle (another post in itself) does impinge on the leeward jackline, but since we try to always go forward on the weather side, for reasons I will be writing about in a future post, it does not matter, particularly since, even with the tackle rigged, we can reach the mast tether.
Nice post, and I am with you on most of it! I too use a similar arrangement of jack lines and strong attachment points all over the place. But I don’t understand or agree with you comment about double tethers. How could you say it is “too much clutter to be dragging around with you as well as potentially confusing…” when your installation would be a lot more confusing for most, even more for visitors who are trying to help (maybe you are hurt or something) ? Your scenario is a very complicated choreography which I’d rather leave to the ballet dancers! Additionally, in very bad weather and darkness (what the heck are you doing on deck you will say 😉 you may have difficulties finding the tethers out there. The one ending on your harness is a sure bet!
I bought a double tether but did not like the shorter section (which is there to keep you closer to the attachment point and prevent falling over the lifeline) so I simply use 2 tethers. Simple, cheaper and you can even attach yourself to two points at once for stability when needed. Furthermore, I have the assurance that I will always be attached, as in your case you may end up having an obstruction in the way preventing you from reaching the next “tether station”.
Having said that, I can’t say you don’t have a safe approach !
Well first off, as I said in my first post in this series, each to their own, or, if it works for you…
Having said that, I have tried carrying around two tethers on my harness, as you do, and have found our system of multiple tethers much easier to use and less confusing. I will also take you on in a reefing race with you using double tethers and me our multiple tether system for a large bet any time you are ready. (A competitor who gets confused and is unclipped for even a second is DSQ.) 🙂
All kidding aside, I think one of the big problems with two tethers is what do you do with the loose one? Most people end up draping it around their necks to stop from tripping over it and the process of getting it out of that position, clipping it on a jackline you have to find, and then draping the new free one around your neck is very time consuming and prone to confusion. It also requires much more “hand time” than our system, and any time a hand is messing with a tether, it’s not holding on.
The tethers are bright yellow, so there is no problem finding them, even on a black night. Also, you can grab the tether anywhere and let it run through your hand to the free end, much quicker and easier than bending down and clipping to a jackline or pad eye.
Just to clarify, we don’t have obstructions preventing us from getting to the next tether.
All I can say is, give it a try, you will be pleasantly surprised, I promise.
After my ten years of offshore cruising, I have evolved to essentially the same system of a full run for the Jackline, and longer tethers for in the cockpit and shorter tethers on the jacklines. I personally use a single tether when I am doing normal tasks in the cockpit and when going on deck, but occasionally use two tethers when going on deck. I should note Juno is a aft cockpit so I only need two jacklines. The deck is aluminum with welded cleats both sides fore and aft which I use as an attachment points for the jackline so it is a full run fore and aft.
I have a boombrake and I lead the Jackline over the control lines for the boombrake, this has not been a problem but it does mean there is a bit of slack in the jackline.
I often sail with “casual” crew, backpackers and such, usually inexperienced sailors at best, and the rules I provide is that the person on watch has his harness on and is locked in, no if ands or buts. Watches start in the harbor. The watchstander can decide who else needs to be in a harness during calm weather during the day but my protocols also require that anyone, in the cockpit or on deck, be in a harness, and hooked in during the dark hours or in 15 knots or more. Day sails in sheltered waters, I make the decisions if harnesses are worn and by whom.
So our thinking is very similar on this issue.
I have had many people tell me my rules are draconian, but it is what makes me comfortable, and it is after all, my boat and not theirs!
Reading the report below it makes one realise that the best place to be is onboard and IF you are on the low side make sure you are on your short tether.
I also wonder why no one has come up with a system for getting someone back on board that doesn’t require 6 deck gorrillas.
Half way down this link is a radar mast which has a short boom to assist with man overboard recovery
Interesting, but I would question whether that boom, and the radar stand it’s attached to would be strong enough for that use. The other problem with any fixed recovery solution is getting the POB under it. We prefer a solution that can we moved. More coming soon.
As to the getting someone back on board: On our life sling, I have a loop tied in the line about 6 feet outboard of the attachment point. So, when someone is in that sling, and the rope it tight, we can attach a line to that loop and through a winch to pull the person toward us. As the original line becomes slack we can detach and continue with the winch pull. There is never a time when it is disconnected. Without that loop, it would be impossible to pull someone in or to detach and then go through a winch. Once in close, a spinnaker halyard or something can be attached to the outboard loop that is about 20′ toward the boat from the float sling.
Reminds me of traversing a rock face on sequential belays. We use the same system, but are still in search of better jackline material.
I am loving this discussion and grateful for the input from such experienced sailors. How do you keep from slipping on, tripping over or otherwise losing your footing on loose tethers languishing about waiting to be used? Thanks so much.
Good question, but actually in practice this does not seem to be a problem. Keep in mind that the tethers are webbing, so they lie flat and represent very little trip risk. Also, the places they are left when not in use are not really places where you would step, unless you are using that tether.
When building SEA BEAR 23 years ago, we addressed the issue of going overboard as follows:
1) NON SKID
Since she is all welded steel construction we sand blasted and epoxy primed the deck ( 2 coats).
Next we put on a heavy coat of Elastomeric Urethane.
While still wet we sprinkled a heavy layer of 1/8″ bits of ground up rubber tires.
When dry a final coat of flat, oil based enamel. Color beige
The result is a 1/4″ thick coating that provides an excellent non skid surface. In time the top coat of enamel wears down exposing black rubber spots. When this happens the non skid qualities actually improve. In practice, I overcoat the deck every couple of years for cosmetic purposes.
The urethane/rubber layer has remained in perfect condition for 23 years and in no place has it,in any way, come away from the steel or required repair or replacement.
One benefit of the system is it’s resiliency. If you drop a winch handle or a tool on deck, it only bounces. It doesn’t chip the paint.
Another benefit is that it isolates the deck plating from the sun to the extent that you can comfortably walk on deck in bare feet, even at the equator. This, of course, also insulates the plating from over heating the cabin. (We also have 1.5″ of sprayed urethane foam on the underside of the deck plate).
The last benefit was that it was very economical. The rubber was given to us by a tire re-treader at no cost.
We constructed high bulwarks the entire length of the deck. Forward it is up to 10″ high and decreases as it runs aft. Midships it is about 6″ above the deck. There are seven ample scupper holes each side to quickly unload a shipped sea.
The stanchions are welded to the deck as well as the bulwark. They are extraordinarily tall and the top lifeline is 32″ above the deck. This is about 8″ higher than standard. This hits my hip high rather an mid thigh. The lower lifeline is 18″ above the deck which leaves only an 8″ gap between the top of the bulwark and the lower lifeline. Compare the photo of Marina on the foredeck with the shots of LION’s foredeck in the report of the fatal accident to Christopher Reddish. The gap between the rail and the lower lifeline on LION is 11.4″ versus 8″ on SEA BEAR. http://www.flickr.com/photos/89011864@N06/8502668187/sizes/m/in/photostream/
These three details provide a deck that is very difficult to fall off. Yes, the bulwarks add additional weight and windage and I guess we have sacrificed a
fraction of a knot for getting there safely.
Sounds like a great non-skid system that would rival our treadmaster. I totally agree with you that sureness of footing is vital, and too often overlooked.
And the idea of bulwarks is great, and again, too often neglected. Often there is nothing but a tiny lip at the edge of the deck and your point that high bulwarks reducing the distance between lifelines is one I had not thought of that makes a lot of sense.
For someone my size, anything less than 75 cm (30 inch) high is a trip wire, not a lifeline.
Good point about the bulwarks. If you have fallen and are sliding across the deck, you might slide over a 2″ toe rail (and under the lifelines) but would have a much better chance of being stopped by a 6″ to 10″ bulwark.
Couldn’t agree more on all counts. Yachts look sleek and sexy—seagoing voyaging boats have bulwarks and real life lines. When hard pressed I’ve always preferred to walk the leeward side rather than be 10 feet in the air on the high side where the motion is much greater.
I’ve suggest your deck coating system to several people who have terminally leaking teak decks and lack the funds to remove and rebuild them… No reason why you can’t buy 5 or 10 years and have a dry boat by using a thick, flexible coating system. However they just preferred to let their boat rot away—–.
I like my double tethers on my harness, but they’re both only a little over 3′ long. My jack lines roughly split the house top in thirds, starting at a padeye just forward of the end of the house on one side, through a padeye near the mast, down to the foredeck cleats and back up the other side of the house in the same manner. The mast also has an eye at boom height if I feel the need. There is a single padeye in the forward end of the cockpit. If I do fall, I can only slide as far as the next padeye. I can reach everything on deck except the far side of the lifelines. Thanks for all your articles; I’ve enjoyed reading them.
Sounds like you have a great system that works for you, which is really the ideal goal here. Personally I would find a 3 foot tether constricting, but there is no question that the shorter the tether the less change of getting dragged. I will be writing about how we ameliorate the risk of using longer tethers in a future post.
I am very appreciative of my 6″ bulwarks and would specify them on a new boat. I wish I had 32″ lifelines.
your system is very thorough and well thought out. So far I have been using a double tether with a long and short end. The tether line that is not used is clipped onto the rings of my harness, which means I always know where it is and can reach for it instantly. It also doesn’t dangle around my feet. Because my tether has Wichard hooks on both lines, I can clip that second tether line to the next anchor point with one hand and then unclip myself from the previous anchor point also with one hand, so that I am never uncliped and my spare hand can hold onto something else.
And that leads me to my question: with your system of multiple tethers, the clipping and unclipping is done at harness end of the tether, which means that you have to open and close a snap shackle. While opening it can be done with one pull, closing a snap shackle, especially if you need to pass it through the two D-rings on your harness, requires two hands, at least I do. What am I missing?
Also, why would you have two shorter jacklines on each side deck, vs one that extend from bow to stern?
With practice you can, and we do, close a wichard snap shackle with one hand. As to D rings, we don’t have them and don’t like them. This is one reason that we are currently using Spinlock lifejackets as harnesses, although that is up for review in a post coming up in this series.
Also keep in mind that in a typical excursion on deck we will only need to clip onto and off a new tether (the jackline tether) once going out of the cockpit and once going back, and that can be done while still sitting on the cockpit seat. If we change to the mast tether, say for reefing, that clip and unclip takes place after we are securely wedged in the mast pulpit bars.
The point being that none of these tether changes take place in a vulnerable situation, so even if two hands are required due, for example, to a sticky snap shackle, it does not matter.
We have two jacklines on each side because our boat has a center cockpit. I guess we could make it one jackline, right past the cockpit, but there would be no advantage since it would be obstructed by the sheets leading to the cockpit winches, and a big disadvantage in that there would be more stretch in the jackline. Finally, there is very rarely a reason to go forward and aft from the cockpit on a single excursion.
I’ll take that reefing race John! I’m a double tether in mast furling guy on my current boat, HR 49. LOL. I know your thoughts on in mast and it’s not the discussion here. I run a jack line “tightly” from the cockpit around my mast pulpits and back to the other side of the cockpit. Another tight line from mast to bow terminating at the inner forestay. My gear is getting tight at the lifelines with one clip change inside the mast pulpits. I live in my “Climbing” harness and step it up when it gets big. The safest gear is the one you use. I solo 75% on the time, I don’t believe in ever ever going over the lifelines. With that being said, I will re-evaluate. Systems can change from boat to boat and through changes in Tech. If the point is to get us thinking, Well done!
I might still surprise you in the reefing race. A good slab reefing system like ours is surprisingly quick to use. Also, you don’t need to round up to unload as you do with most in-mast systems. So with both boats on a broad reach and preventers rigged I might easily give you a run for your money.
I climbing harness is an interesting idea. My worry would be the time to get into it securely at 3:00 am, when I’m not at my best, with a full suit of heavy foul weather gear on and several layers under that. Also, how comfortable is it to sit around in for a four hour watch? Finally, what about the risk of ending up hanging head down?
I’d love to see your climbing harness…. and make and model etc.
Perhaps you can post a picture or a link to see it on line.
I’m not a fan of using climbing harnesses for POB prevention: https://www.morganscloud.com/2017/07/21/person-overboard-prevention-use-of-climbing-harnesses/
Also see Drew’s comments on the post since he is an experienced climber and sailor.
Thank you John… I should have waited until I read the whole chapter… I saw that. Just got an email from Colin too and he uses the Spinlock deck vests and Boreal uses Wichard fabric jackstays… can’t wait to read the rest of this book… its a thriller!
I like your multiple tether arrangement and wish we would have thought of it. We did the double tether deal and hated it.
1. After going back and forth about webbing jacklines vs. non-stretch line, we ended up doing a “both” solution: We ran the non-stretch line inside tubular webbing — the shackle ran very smoothly and the non-stretch didn’t suffer from UV.
2. We had a boom brake and simply ducked under it as we went forward (this may be one of those things that works on some boat’s configurations and not others).
We had similar rules to yours about when they were worn, although we said 10 knots. And the dog NEVER was unleashed on deck except at anchor, the free end was always secured (usually to a cleat, as she only weighs 7 pounds) and she wore a harness, not a collar that could break her neck. Yes, if you have a pet on board, you have to plan their safety just as much as yours!
I’ll be nearby in Halifax in July for that reefing race. De-loading is a little time sucker.
The climbing harness has been an evolution. First I must admit that, in a fall you will be hanging from your waist not your chest. This can be a balancing problem but a risk I’m ok with. Then sleeping in it was not great so I took an older harness and cut it down to bare bones. This is great for sleeping but not ideal for a fall. I also have a full on ISAF compliant PFD. They are all easy to get into and I use the right one for the conditions. I feel that it’s irresponsible to not be tied in offshore and the restraint that saves me is the one I’m wearing.
I’ve heard that nearly all fatal man overboards that are recovered have their fly open.
Your on! Interesting on the harness options.
Jacklines in my view & on my boat are not needed.
When moving around on deck my hands are free to hold on. If condition are bad, I use timing when I go. I have always felt safe doing this. It is important to develop this agility & confidence. It doesn’t take long. Not being agile is a huge negative.
On my boat I assess the main risks of going overboard in 4 ways:
Pissing over the side. To piss I walk up to the main lee shrouds & lean over, shoulders jammed against 2 shrouds, very stable.
Working the halyards. If unstable standing up, I lie down on deck on my back. This is very stable if a bit inelegant.
On the bowsprit working the foresail. If in severe conditions I wear a harnesss & hook myself to the boat, usually to the staysail stay.
Boarding seas. Twice solid water crashed down onto the boat when I was in the cockpit. I leaned into the water as it crashed down. My stability was perfect.
In none of these situations was a jackline needed. I wear a harness if feeling insecure for any reason & I can attach myself anywhere to the boat. My harness is on a hook, easy to get at, and I value this piece of equipment.
If a situation needs instant action, jacklines get in the way. Perhaps with practice this is not so, & it sounds like this is what you have done, John.
I used to have a jackline, but found that crew took all day to hook on & were constantly preoccupied with safety procedures, not with dealing with the situation. They tended to be paralyzed with procedure, even fear. Sailors have to be capable of instant action. People who don’t put the boat, the situation, first, are useful only as fair weather sailors.
Part of my difference with every one else on this post may arise from the fact that my boat is heavy displacement, low freeboard, full keel, 10″ bulwark. Lightweight boats with high freeboard & little keel tend to be vastly more unstable & dangerous. These boats never have a bulwark beacause it makes a high freeboard even higher. For these boats jacklines may well be necessary.
I cut up my jackline & use part of it as a towing strap for my car. Less is more.
Thanks for a well reasoned and interesting comment. As I said in the second post in this series, I, for one, would not criticise another seaman’s approach as long as it is the result of thought and experience, which yours obviously is, and not laziness and inattention to risk.
I think, in the final analysis we both have the same goal: to be and feel secure in such a way that we can respond quickly and effectively to the needs of our boats.
There is some I agree with in what you say about ability to be agile and to find ways to run the boat and relieve yourself with some degree of safety without a tether to jacklines. For yourself, I am very much of a mind that you are making reasoned and thoughtful decisions. That you have crew would worry me as they are not so experienced with the holdfasts to connect to on your vessel when jacklines are not available (and likely not so experienced at sea).
I do write primarily to address your contention that sailors need to capable of instant action. In many ways I believe I know what you are referring to and agree, but I would suggest that while being capable of instant action, most of us would be well served by rarely taking instant action. I can think of few (I think none actually) instances in my sailing career where instant action was called for while I can certainly name a few jumps into instant action I regretted quickly. Offshore I try to move at 2/3rds speed and to never jump into things. I tether up to a jackline while trying to maintain the headset that you well describe in your comments. I do not wish to find out what it feels like to rely on the tether, but it will be there connected to the jackline when offshore, at night, etc.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
A really good point. I agree: in my experience, when something goes wrong at sea, 90% of the time a moment of thought, followed by slow and deliberate action saves the day. For me, knowing that I’m securely tethered helps me to concentrate on the problem at hand and makes me more effective, not less so.
Dick, sometimes I encounter situations where I choose to move fast. Severely luffing sails, about to jibe, caught in irons off a lee cliff without the space to jibe (I never made tha mistake again), broken steering cable or other equipment, or sometimes just for the pleasure of it. Perhaps the fastest I’ve moved was running back from the bow to take the wheel from a new & terrified crew who was trying to jibe in a gale.
Just examples. I agree with you & John. I need to be clear in head & often this requires thought first. When I move it is rarely at full tilt.
I cherish & deeply enjoy the ability to jump into action instantly & the clarity of mind that goes with this. The alternative is to be sluggish of body & mind. Who wants to be like that?
We’re saying the same thing really.
On jacklines. No one else on this thread has pointed out that there are alternatives. I just did. Looks like there are no real objections. This means concurrence that in terms of safety concepts jacklines are optional, and not essential.
Excellent system – up to now we’ve been using the double tether arrangement and hate it – moreover, our practice is to keep the tether attached to us – rather than keeping it (them) attached to the lines and padeyes – the downside of which is that when we go below, there’s ample opportunity to put dings in the woodwork caused by flying tether shackles! Thanks John – we will be adopting your methodology this year.
I’d like to contribute a thought about peeing over the side. On Snowball that is strictly forbidden. In order to not end up as a DFO (Dead, fly open), I have a so called urinator, a simple cut off PET bottle which is often replaced at almost no cost. I pee into that and empty it over the side. When I have crew, it can be done discreetly with the back to them. I admit it’s a man’s solution, but the ladies go to the head anyway. One risk eliminated. Oh, and where do I stow the urinator when not in use ? In the bucket that is always tethered to the rail.
I have to respond to Nicolas’s post. I held back on the first few Nicolas post because I do believe we are free to choose our systems. I sail big bad stuff alone and all the time. I’m a little bit of a rebel in terms of what many think is safe or wise, my choice. I solo to the first set of spreaders 25′ off the deck while underway/alone. I understand “do it know”. However, I’m a little worked up about your post Nick. Running around on deck in a gale. Rookies at the wheel? Slow down, tether up and DON’T gibe in a gale, it’s a choice. I say this with respect. I appriciate John’s appoach “to each his own” As in climbing, you won’t have a second chance. clip in. My opinion!
Hi Dan, I guess you need to know the story of this rookie. I first met him only 48 hours before, at the outset of the trip. We were introduced by Email. He lived in another country, so meeting up beforehand was out. I’m deaf & must lipread, so telephoning was out. We corresponded by Email. A man in his 60s, he spoke of 50+ yrs of sailing & of owning a few boats. Unasked he emailed me quite a few copies of certificates of a nautical character. Sounded OK, a coastal sailor of some experience.
The near gybe in the gale was the 1st real indication that there was a problem.
With the rising gale I asked him to take the wheel & keep her on a reach while I changed the headsail. Within a few minutes he started swinging her downwind. He ignored my gestures. I had to run back. The mainsail was lifting when I grabbed the wheel.
This instantly & totally destroyed my confidence in him In the next 2 weeks I gave him only easy responsibilities where if he messed up it was no big deal. He gybed half a dozen times in light winds & could not sort out the sails after gybing. He did other stuff that exceeded even my very low expectations. There were other problems, of a juvenile nature.
As an armchair sailor he knew a great deal & could outtalk me anytime. How he managed 50+ yrs sailing & boat ownership utterly eludes me to this day. I am sure he was not fibbing about his background. Curious how the water attracts all types. Hope you’re not so ‘a bit worked up’ now.
I understand the reasoning of your system and have but one question. What happens if you are at the mast, as in the video, and a wave washes the free tether down towards the stern of your vessel?
Good question. The fact is that in some 15 years of using this system, often in pretty heavy weather, that has never happened. Having said that, as you say, it could. But even if it does, you are no wore off than you would be with a conventional system: just sit down and move the mast tether to the jackline.
Also our new jackline setup, that we will reveal soon, solves that, although it was not the primary intent.
Excellent post, thanks. Always good to hear what other people are using. This summer before sailing in Labrador I added another clip-0n point at the top of the companionway – in memory of Ned Cabot- as well as having jacklines running along both decks.
I was glad for all this safetey in more than one gale, especially being alone!
I’m a new reader of this site & I must say that a lot of experiences are coming through. I am in the process of getting my Hanse 341 ready to go off shore and I love the idea of multiple tethers. I’m thinking of modifying it by using expanding tethers inside the cockpit to reduce the clutter , rather than having multiple 6 foot tethers lying all over the cockpit. I have multiple strong attachment sites inside the shrouds for the jacklines but I would be inclined to use standard length tethers to prevent loosing them as they shorten up. Any thoughts ?
We tried the elastic tethers that I think you are referring to and hated them. The problem is that because they shrink up when not under load they get themselves into unexpected places, like between your legs, and then trip you up. Of course your experience may be different, but I would buy just one and try it first before committing.
As to tether length, that’s a big issue that we will be dealing with in further posts. Ideally, each tether should be just long enough for its designated task, but there is more to it than that. We are also working with Hathaways on a custom length tether solution for all. Look for all of this over the winter and into next spring.
I looked at the video where you show the use of your jackline system. Interesting to see and definitely something I will consider. What I was surprised about was the long tether that you use to walk from cockpit to mast. As your main requirement for the whole system is to keep your crew from falling overboard, this long line in my mind defeats the purpose, as it will not prevent the person walking from going over the railing. I think a failsafe system really should prevent this. Especially short handed, a person hanging on a lifeline over the side will be a hell of a job to get back on board.
Up till now I use a double lifeline with a short and a long end. When the weather is rough, I will always use the short line walking forward. When working at the mast, I tether to a pad-eys there and usually switch to the longer line as this gives me more room to do the work.
A question about your setup: how would a person move forward of the mast, say to the bow or furler? Is this part of the jackline going forward or is there another jackline starting somewhere at the mast. It seems to me it is one line all the way to the front. If so, how do you cross any items or lines that cross the jackline, without a double lifeline?
The jackline that Phyllis is using in the video is 60″ long, which is shorter that most you can buy.
But you are right. In many cases it’s too long. But on the other hand, just saying shorter is better, is not right either, as a short line will restrict your reach, and that, in itself, can be dangerous too because, particularly in an emergency, you may have to unclip—not good.
And also, the problem is that making a safe custom length tether is not trivial.
The bottom line is that, as I say in the post with the video, we are taking a good long look at our system to try to reduce drag risk. But solving that problem, contrary to what many think, is extremely difficult on most boats, including ours.
The good news is, as I say in that post, we think we have it the problem cracked, but it will be the spring before we can try the changes we are making. When we have done that, we will be publishing our solution and (I hope) have in place a source for safe and tested custom length tethers.
Great link, thank you. A lot to be learned from their story.
I guess it’s hard to imagine how you could do more things wrong than that guy did. No tether being number one on the list. Still, sharing their story, warts and all, does them both credit. We all do stupid stuff and owning up to it is not easy, but it’s the first step on the road to smarter behaviour.
You can watch me doing something dumb in this video.
John, can you post details and perhaps pictures of how the ends of the jacklines are attached? Any update on where to purchase tethers and how to measure the length for them?
I have a complete update on our new system coming up later in the fall. We did all the work on it over the last year, as well as photos and video. Now I need to pull it all together into a coherent set of chapters.
As regards short tethers I wonder whether the engineering loads need to be re-examined? The shock loads experienced when coming up short will be much less as the distance will be less. Like you we use multiple tethers each designed for their own location, and the only one which gives me any concern is that attached to the fore and aft jackline. There one could possibly go overboard, but I believe statistics show that this is the least common way to go overboard. Both hands used and the “500 ft cliff” rule perhaps?
We have made some of our custom jacklines using our Sailrite, but climbing shops also have a good selection which we use, together with alloy carabiners. All the climbing kit comes with breaking loads clearly marked, something that few marine manufacturers do.
Actually there have been several death by dragging tragedies in the last few years. In fact I think that’s the biggest risk that sailors like you and I that are good about clipping on face. But I think we have a pretty good solution worked out and tested over last summer. More coming.
I’m also not sure I’m happy about making tethers with a small (relatively) sewing machine, like the Sailrite, since I think that said machine can’t use a heavy enough thread to compensate for UV degradation. Destruction testing at Hathawy has shown that this deterioration occurs very quickly (one year) on thread sizes that most machines can handle.
I would recommend, at the very least, oversewing your tethers by hand with a palm and sailmaker’s needle with heavy waxed thread.
More on UV degradation and the right thread to use in this post.
Here’s a new twist on staying attached to the boat:
This time with a happy end.
Now that’s a scary story that confirms a lot of my new-to-me thinking. Bottom line, sidedeck jacklines don’t keep us safe. More coming in a new chapter.
Hi John, do the shackles at the ends of your various tethers bang around on the deck, especially during rougher weather? Or is a tether sometimes not where you expect it to be because it has slid along its jackline?
Good questions, but surprisingly neither has ever really been a problem. The tethers just seem to lie quietly where we drop them. However, if you did have a problem it would be simple to fix by just clipping the unused tether to a shock cord loop fastened through a small deck eye or a conveniently placed piece of gear. Another idea would be to sew webbing loops to the sides of the dodger and use those to retail the unused tethers.
John I notice in the photo that you are using a snap-shackle on the harness end of the tether. What are you using on the jackline end? We have tethers with double action carabiners as commonly used by Spinlock, Baltic, Seago et al. We suffer from a persistent problem that when dragging the tether along a webbing jackline the line pulls under the spring loaded locking arm on the carabiner. This happens most often when you are pulling the tether at low angles, for example when crawling; a rather common occurrence on a sub-40’ boat. Whilst there is little risk of coming unclipped, it does stop you dead in your tracks, typically at that moment when you are at full stretch trying to grab a flying control line. I for one have ended up on my face on the deck several times as a cause (not overboard as yet).
You can find full details of all of our system, including our tethers in the other chapters of this online book.
Further to the above. I’m not a fan of the Gib type carabiners that I think you are referring to, and given the recent failure of one of these resulting in a fatality, together with some damning testing results over at Practical Sailor, I would recommend getting rid of them immediately and substituting Kong Tango carabiners as we recommend in other parts of this Online Book.