Monday, February 1, 2010

Lifeline Project

Journeyman's lifelines were vinyl or PVC covered, a type I do not trust. Nor does the American Boat and Yacht Council, which, in Standard H-41, warns that covered stainless steel lifelines risk hidden rust and, obviously, are incapable of thorough inspection. In my opinion covered lifelines are a hazard and no one wishing to remain aboard should have them.

My rebedding project included a thorough inspection and improvement of each stanchion and pulpit, so I was quite comfortable with that aspect of the system. For those interested, BoatUS, which publishes a surprisingly solid members magazine, wrote a good piece on stanchions and pulpits. Certainly replacing lifelines without inspecting stanchions and pulpits would be a questionable effort.

Locally fabricated and installed, lifelines would have cost me about $800.00. On the web I could have sourced them for about $400.00. I made my own for $130.00.

The new lifelines are 1 by 19 number 316 stainless steel wire rope, diameter 3/16 inch (4.76 mm). 1 by 19 wire rope is made up of 19 single strands, and it is commonly used for standing rigging (stays). 7 by 19 (pictured at right)  is made of 7 strands, with each strand made up of 19 wires; it is quite flexible and is used in halyards.

Lifelines are often made of 7 by 19 or 7 by 7 wire rope. The 1 by 19 I used is pretty stiff and thus is more difficult to work with than 7 by 19 or 7 by 7. The advantage of 1 by 19, pictured at left, is that it doesn't pinch arm and leg hairs nearly as much as 7 by 19 or 7 by 7, no small concern! The individual wire size being quite a bit larger than in 7 by 19, the 1 by 19 is also more resistant to chafe (which can occur where the lifelines pass through stanchions) and stranding.

I used the following materials in my project: 120 feet wire rope; 8 solid stainless thimbles; Nicropress sleeves or ferrules; and 20 feet 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) Spectra line.The solid stainless thimbles are important and a nice find. I sourced these items at Jamestown Distributors, a company I find helpful and knowledgeable and with good prices.

I did not reuse the turnbuckles from the prior lifelines. They were bent and old and I mistrusted them. Instead, I lashed the lifelines taut. When I called the rigger at Jamestown Distributors I told him I planned to lash the lifelines and he said "the way we used to do it."

Exactly. Further, lashed lifelines have several advantages over lifelines tightened by turnbuckles. They are much cheaper - I saved at least $150.00 by not using turnbuckles and terminal hardware. They are lighter, and the weight saved is relatively high. Finally, lashed lifelines can be slacked with the slash of a knife, useful if you are trying to get a man in the water over the lifelines and into the boat. Try quickly slacking a turnbuckled lifeline sometime.

Later this week I'll discuss my fabrication of the lifelines. They came out really well, and after two seasons I remain quite happy with them.


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