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Old 18-06-2013, 20:02   #1
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Why do Sailboats have Wire Lifelines?

Time for new lifelines. Walking around the marina I see all power boats have solid 1" SS tube railings. Its just the sailboats with wire, and the wire is connecting solid 1"SS bow and stern pulpits. Why not connect the pulpits together with tube all the way (except for the boarding gates). I am reminded that when West Marine founder Randy Repass, outfitted his dream sailboat, he choice solid.

Falling overboard and grabbing a nice 1" rail, I know I can get back on board since I do 20 chin-ups a day on a similar sized bar. I couldn't do a single one on a typical lifeline wire.

Intuitively, it seems like going all solid, at least on a cruising sailboat, is a no brainer. But no one does. Why?
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Old 18-06-2013, 20:15   #2
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

If I slip and fall to leeward, I would much rather be caught by something that gives, than something solid.... Breaking bones is no fun. Plus, I have a sense of style. Solid tubing would make my boat look seriously ugly. Like a powerboat.

Don't know what kind of scenario you've got in mind for pulling yourself onboard but if you fall overboard the chances of you grabbing the railing and pulling yourself back are almost zero, in my opinion. Certainly that is never the reason for the tubing on a motorboat, since the freeboard is way too high to reach it. But in the unlikely event that you do happen to grab a railing going overboard from a sailing vessel (with invariably only 1 hand), the force of the water whilst the boat is moving will make your 20 chin-ups seem like child's play. Best to stay onboard by way of lifeline.

In summary, I think it is because sailboats heel and powerboats don't - the likelihood of falling against them is much greater in a sailboat, and you're likely falling against them from a further distance.


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Old 18-06-2013, 20:15   #3
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

Why not solid - Weight and expense. Not all use wire, some use Spectra. Having higher stanchions is probably a major improvement for an offshore boat.
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Old 18-06-2013, 20:28   #4
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Journeyman View Post
Time for new lifelines. Walking around the marina I see all power boats have solid 1" SS tube railings. Its just the sailboats with wire, and the wire is connecting solid 1"SS bow and stern pulpits. Why not connect the pulpits together with tube all the way (except for the boarding gates). I am reminded that when West Marine founder Randy Repass, outfitted his dream sailboat, he choice solid.

Falling overboard and grabbing a nice 1" rail, I know I can get back on board since I do 20 chin-ups a day on a similar sized bar. I couldn't do a single one on a typical lifeline wire.

Intuitively, it seems like going all solid, at least on a cruising sailboat, is a no brainer. But no one does. Why?

I would never count on getting up the side of my boat. The freeboard is just too high. I have a ladder that's easily dropped into the water and long enough to climb easily.

The center of gravity for adults is too high for lifelines -- or 1" at that height -- to keep you on board. In my opinion they serve as a stern reminder about where the edge of the cliff is.

So I do not see the point of the expense of stainless steel rails all around.
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Old 18-06-2013, 20:30   #5
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

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Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
Why not solid - Weight and expense. Not all use wire, some use Spectra. Having higher stanchions is probably a major improvement for an offshore boat.

Yes. I actually have wire for the top line (uncovered) and spectra for the intermediate line.
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Old 18-06-2013, 20:45   #6
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

Cost for starters. Price out 1" 316 tubing. My boat has double life-lines, maybe yours does too, so add another 60- 90 feet there. Now you need to either be really good at welding, or pay a pro. I would think a 40' boat could take up to a couple of days for a pro to cut it all out, weld it and polish it -- with help. I'm thinking a couple of grand at best just for the install.

Or you call Rigging Only, and for a few hundred bucks, they cut you new 316 cable and reuse your fittings if they can, and you reinstall one morning... Or Spectra.

That's just thinking out loud, but to answer your squestion, I'd have to think part of it is tradition for smaller sailing yachts to have stancheons and lifelines. I can see rigid railings giving many sailboat captains trouble at the dock, where there's more square footage to hit pilings and cause other problems. I also think that for a railing to be really useful, it needs to be higher. Lifelines as they are already are kinda silly. I do think the doubles on my boat along with high bulwarks give me a place to get low and scurry fore and aft, but for walking upright, I pretend they don't exist and use jacklines and caution when on decks.

One inch tubing, at any practical height, would take a major toll on the aesthetics of a small sailboat. From a functional standpoint, I can't see any reason not to do it, besides cost. I would think it very practical on steel and aluminum boats, especially bigger boats with wide decks.
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Old 18-06-2013, 20:46   #7
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

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Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post
Yes. I actually have wire for the top line (uncovered) and spectra for the intermediate line.
I did my last boat opposite - spectra on the top and wire in the middle. The spectra is much nicer on the hand.
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Old 18-06-2013, 20:49   #8
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I use three strand nylon. The spectra craze is a little weird.

Use solid metal where you need it.
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Old 18-06-2013, 20:51   #9
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

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Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
I did my last boat opposite - spectra on the top and wire in the middle. The spectra is much nicer on the hand.

Makes sense, but when I got the boat, the middle wire was missing.
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Old 18-06-2013, 21:06   #10
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

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I use three strand nylon. The spectra craze is a little weird.

Use solid metal where you need it.

Relative to nylon Spectra is

(a) lighter
(b) stronger
(c) thinner
(d) stretches less
(e) all of the above

and there's nothing weird about that.
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Old 18-06-2013, 21:16   #11
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

Amel yachts have had 1" tube all round welded to stanchions for many years. I have one - it's great.
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Old 18-06-2013, 21:21   #12
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

Very happy with the switch to solid.

Deck areas seem more spacious (psychological).

Definitely safer with a firm handhold available anywhere.

Nice to be able to wedge body against rail and slide along continuously.

No maintenance (unless I crash into something).

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Old 18-06-2013, 21:30   #13
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

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Originally Posted by Panope View Post
Very happy with the switch to solid.

Deck areas seem more spacious (psychological).

Definitely safer with a firm handhold available anywhere.

Nice to be able to wedge body against rail and slide along continuously.

No maintenance (unless I crash into something).

Steve
Cool boat. Having something to wedge and brace with sounds useful.
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Old 18-06-2013, 21:45   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by savoir View Post

Relative to nylon Spectra is

(a) lighter
(b) stronger
(c) thinner
(d) stretches less
(e) all of the above

and there's nothing weird about that.
You forgot to mention:

a) harder to splice
b) more expensive

With three strand you can run much thicker, the stretch is negligible, and it's easier to grab. The "advantages" of spectra for lifelines are on paper; it's a distinction without a difference. If people want to spend more money and work harder to do a "better" job that offers no material benefit I certainly won't stand in their way.
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Old 18-06-2013, 22:17   #15
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Re: Why do sailboats have wire lifelines?

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Originally Posted by savoir View Post
Relative to nylon Spectra is

(a) lighter
(b) stronger
(c) thinner
(d) stretches less
(e) all of the above

and there's nothing weird about that.
The quality I valued in the spectra was the lack of stretch.

It's not terribly UV resistant, though. I'm not sure how long it will last.
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