Person Overboard Prevention—Use of Climbing Harnesses

Spinlock Mast Pro climbing-type harness (left), Spinlock Deck Pro sailing harness (right).

Pretty much every time I write about person overboard prevention someone will suggest using a climbing harness instead of a lifejacket with a built-in harness, like the Spinlock Deckvests that Phyllis and I favour, or a separate sailing harness as many other voyagers use.

The benefits of this approach often cited by advocates include:

  • There is absolutely no way to fall, or be dragged, out of a properly-fitted climbing harness.
  • Much less bulky.
  • Will absorb tether arrest loads better.
  • Possibly more comfortable.
  • No need to mess about with separate crotch straps.

I can certainly see the attraction of this idea and don't disagree with the above benefits list; however, I think that we must also think about the drawbacks:

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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