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Old 06-04-2013, 08:30   #1
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Life lines - How to question...

When I say life line; I mean the line that some of us install from fore to aft, that we can attach our safety harnesses.

Is there a way to do it in such a way that once you attach yourself from the cockpit, you can walk all the way to the bow without having to detach and re-attach yourself ?

I would very much like to see pictures of the same.

I know it differs from boat to boat and the rig etc. but in general, are there thumb rules ?

What kind of life line is better ? A poly strip as widely available in mass marine stores, or a steel wire, or a certain kind of rope ? Why ?

I'm thinking of attaching my harness to the spinnaker halyard (the top-most side halyard, comes to a winch in the cockpit and wife gets the slack as I move to forward to trim the sails)

How do you guys and gals do ?
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Old 06-04-2013, 08:56   #2
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

My jack-lines was flat nylon webbing that was attached to a dedicated strong mounting point in the cockpit that went forward inside of the shrouds to a bow cleat ,my harness had a 5ft long(aprox)line that would go under the jack-line and back to the harness walking forward this lifted the jack-line which helped keep it clear ,going inside the shrouds was a bit of a pain but it allowed me to work at the mast yet have a short fall distance and would be stopped short before going over if need be I could attach directly to the jack-line on the opposite side which stop me from going over-board also
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:00   #3
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

Very big topic . . .

To start, these are typically called jack lines. Life lines usually refers to the wires running thru your stanchions.

Regarding materials, there are different expert opinions, but the predominate thinking is that polyester (dacon) webbing is best. It's more UV resistant than nylon and polypropylene, and less stretchy than nylon (I will come to that in a moment). And it rolls under the foot less that wire or rope, so you are less likely to slip on it.

The webbing needs to be quite strong. I don't have the OSR regs with me but seem to remember minimum 4000lbs breaking strength. Your average store webbing is not this strong, so you need to search out the extra strong stuff.

We use hollow polyester webbing with a 1/4" spectra cord threaded down the middle. This makes it very strong, the spectra cord is protected from UV and chafe, and the combination provided just the right amount of stretch. You do want a little stretch to absorb shock loads, and polyester is just about perfect, but you do not want so much stretch that it allows you to go over the side of the boat, and our spectra cord allows us to exactly set how much stretch is allowed.

That brings us to location. Near the centerline of the boat is best. This is most likely to keep you on the vessel and not being towed over the side. It is also, on most boats, the most likely location to allow you a clean run from the front of the cockpit to the bow. Most boats run the jack lines up the side decks, and inho this is NOT the best location.

Beyond jack lines, it's very useful to have fixed (pad eyes or spectra loops) clip in points at your primary work stations (mast, innerstay, head stay, helm). The vast majority of mob occur when standing up and working with both hands (eg not holding on with one). They do not usually occur when moving up and down the deck, where you can and should always have a death grip on the boat with one hand. So at the fixed clip in points you can set your tether to be just the right length to allow you to work but no longer, and the clip points and be very strong and not vulnerable to chafe or UV. We go a set further and attach permanent tethers to these points, which are just the right length and always there, so even if we forget to bring a tether we can clip in, even if we don't have a harness we can clip to a belt in a pinch.

I have never heard of the idea of using a halyard as a "tether". It's an interesting idea. You could use a spare main halyard aft of the mast and a spin halyard forward. There could be some potential rigging complications say if you use runners/check stays, and with a poled out jib. But it's an interesting idea.

Another slightly different idea is to set tight rope lines at about chest height above the life lines. Running from the pulpit, to and tied at the stays and then back to the pushit. The idea is to create something higher than the life lines to help stop you from going over the side. Lin and Larry are proponents of this. We have never tried it.

That's a start to the discussion . . .
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:30   #4
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As usual Evans has provided and very through and effective answer!

To answer the initial question regarding a "jackline" that allows the user to run bow to stern without clipping out...

Of course you can do this, but it would not really be safe and would defeat the purpose. Like Evans we focus on "workstation" runs of jack lines. We do this as the idea of a jack line is to prevent one from going over the life lines. We have broken the jackline into two sections.

If you run a jackline bow to stern, even if it is ratcheted tight using a trailer winch it will still stretch and combined with your lifeline length you will likely end up over the lifelines and in the water, not good. Try on a boat sailed by a couple in calm conditions to let the heavier of the two partners try to lift the lighter of the two partners over the lifelines and back into the boat. It is really difficult, even using various retrieval tools one can buy, imagine if the situation were reversed and the lighter crew is retrieving the heavier...

So with that in mind the idea is to find a balance between safety and convienance that doesn't involve a risk of going over the lifelines. For us that was focusing on where we spent most of our time.

We see 4 zones.

Zone 1: Cockpit, combination of hard attachment points and short tethers at the base of the cockpit - easy enough but we also have small children so we installed min jack lines at the base of the cockpit that allow little ones in calm weather to wander the cockpit but with teachers to short to climb over the back of seats out on to the deck. But one also wants to be secured so you can't be washed back aft over the lifelines so this means hard attachment points

Zone 2: Cockpit to base of mast, tethers run from edge of hard dodger to base of mast - This and zone 4 are really what people thick of when they think of jacklines. But really it is rare that you are going to run forward to deal with the head sail, assuming you don't have a Furler now like a majority of cruisers do, without dealing with the main as well. And if you do it is only one quick clip across using a double tether so you are never not clipped in

Zone 3: Base of mast, hard points - we have granny bars and a winch at the base of the mast combined with slab reefing. In normal conditions I usually don't even unclip from the tether from zone 2, but there have been times where there was a lot of water on the deck or the boat was moving a lot and I clipped into the hard points at the mast. But that would be unusual.

Zone 4 base of mast to head stay - tether from near base to bowsprit, near centreline of boat. We have a furler on the head stay and hank on sails on the inner so I do go out to the foredeck. By having the tether go to the mast I can only be swept that far back versus the whole length of the boat.

Two main things with jack lines is to keep them as close to the centreline as possible and for us is to break them into sections based on where you are likely to use them, this also prevents the possibility of beng swept the full length of the boat as well.
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:33   #5
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

We rig our harness with two hook ups. Then when we need to go from one part of our jack line to another, hook up the second line then unhook the first one ! makes it much easier to move forward or aft safely. Ive never been able to run a jack line safely enough in one shot from bow to stern, so unhooking and hooking back up is nessary, that's why we use two hook up lines ! Just an old fashion way I guess but we have never gone overboard in 20 + yrs of cruising
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:41   #6
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

Quote:
Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
Very big topic . . .

To start, these are typically called jack lines. Life lines usually refers to the wires running thru your stanchions.

Regarding materials, there are different expert opinions, but the predominate thinking is that polyester (dacon) webbing is best. It's more UV resistant than nylon and polypropylene, and less stretchy than nylon (I will come to that in a moment). And it rolls under the foot less that wire or rope, so you are less likely to slip on it.

The webbing needs to be quite strong. I don't have the OSR regs with me but seem to remember minimum 4000lbs breaking strength. Your average store webbing is not this strong, so you need to search out the extra strong stuff.

We use hollow polyester webbing with a 1/4" spectra cord threaded down the middle. This makes it very strong, the spectra cord is protected from UV and chafe, and the combination provided just the right amount of stretch. You do want a little stretch to absorb shock loads, and polyester is just about perfect, but you do not want so much stretch that it allows you to go over the side of the boat, and our spectra cord allows us to exactly set how much stretch is allowed.

That brings us to location. Near the centerline of the boat is best. This is most likely to keep you on the vessel and not being towed over the side. It is also, on most boats, the most likely location to allow you a clean run from the front of the cockpit to the bow. Most boats run the jack lines up the side decks, and inho this is NOT the best location.

Beyond jack lines, it's very useful to have fixed (pad eyes or spectra loops) clip in points at your primary work stations (mast, innerstay, head stay, helm). The vast majority of mob occur when standing up and working with both hands (eg not holding on with one). They do not usually occur when moving up and down the deck, where you can and should always have a death grip on the boat with one hand. So at the fixed clip in points you can set your tether to be just the right length to allow you to work but no longer, and the clip points and be very strong and not vulnerable to chafe or UV. We go a set further and attach permanent tethers to these points, which are just the right length and always there, so even if we forget to bring a tether we can clip in, even if we don't have a harness we can clip to a belt in a pinch.

I have never heard of the idea of using a halyard as a "tether". It's an interesting idea. You could use a spare main halyard aft of the mast and a spin halyard forward. There could be some potential rigging complications say if you use runners/check stays, and with a poled out jib. But it's an interesting idea.

Another slightly different idea is to set tight rope lines at about chest height above the life lines. Running from the pulpit, to and tied at the stays and then back to the pushit. The idea is to create something higher than the life lines to help stop you from going over the side. Lin and Larry are proponents of this. We have never tried it.

That's a start to the discussion . . .

Thanks for the reply... How can we encourage people to send pictures of their own way of how they do it ?...

And with the halyard; it will only take what ? 10 minutes (max) to trim the sails forward, so any top-most halyard will do i presume... Two halyards, a fore mast and aft mast halyard, will still be needed to detach-re-attach the harness and therefore make us feel we are not safe for the 5 seconds in between...
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:44   #7
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobconnie View Post
We rig our harness with two hook ups. Then when we need to go from one part of our jack line to another, hook up the second line then unhook the first one ! makes it much easier to move forward or aft safely. Ive never been able to run a jack line safely enough in one shot from bow to stern, so unhooking and hooking back up is nessary, that's why we use two hook up lines ! Just an old fashion way I guess but we have never gone overboard in 20 + yrs of cruising
excellent.... I've never thought of two hook ups... A simple and yet reliable solution... Amazing, the knowledge pool is such easily shared these days....
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:48   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sycankiz View Post

I'm thinking of attaching my harness to the spinnaker halyard (the top-most side halyard, comes to a winch in the cockpit and wife gets the slack as I move to forward to trim the sails)
Assuming you are a monohull...

...how much does your boat heel?

Where would you end up if you were swept off the deck while still attached to a spinnaker halyard?

How would your partner retrieve you?

Assume the worst, the 5 seconds you are unattached is when you will be swept by green water...
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Old 06-04-2013, 10:05   #9
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

I feel that this idea of multiple Jack lines is to complicated, to many knots, to many things to maintain. We have a 1 piece jackline from cockpit ( webbing with (3/16 Amsteel core) to the stem and back to the cockpit. You clip in once and you are good for the whole time you are fwd. Sure you could be washed ovbd, through the life lines and get hung up in the shrouds and stanchions but that is about as far as you would go
It depends on your boat somewhat, how it is layed out etc.. of course
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Old 06-04-2013, 12:05   #10
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

Webbing jacklines on the deck - run from bow cleat to stern cleat is probably the simplest and cheapest.

Agree that will have enough spring in the jackline (plus harness line) to let you overboard......but not such a great risk of that if you are on the "uphill" side (if only because you likely have more to hit / get snagged on falling downhill! - obviously that has own risks)......having said that am (still) puzzling through a centre line approach that works for my boat - plenty of other threads on CF, so worth a search. The word "Jackline" will likely be key!
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Old 06-04-2013, 12:25   #11
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

For an extensive discussion on this topic go to this web page.

Jacklines For Voyaging Sailboats
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Old 06-04-2013, 13:05   #12
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

Jack lines on the boat I raced for 18 years was plastic coated heavy steel cable. It was nicely tucked in where the base of the cabin top met the deck. In this position, it was not a trip or roll hazzard. It was always at the ready, permanently attached to SS pad eyes. The geometry of this boat, Heritage One-Ton, was perfect for this set-up. Our current boat is not. We run port & starboard webbing from the cockpit to the bow and keep it inside the shrouds and other deck features. Our beam is near 16 feet. The best advice, also noted above, ask yourself if you want to try to climb back over the lee rail lifelines withthe boat over 30 degrees and going hull speed. Keep you belay points far from the edge and stay on the boat. We also have several dedicated pad eyes for various work stations. I am always amazed when guests naturally head forward on the low side rather than windward. You can almost stand up straight on windward but the deck slope is steeper on the lee side and slipery too.

I can't imagine getting whipped like a bate on a fly rod hanging from a halyard while the boat pitched about.
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Old 06-04-2013, 20:39   #13
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

Everything I've been reading lately says that going over the side offshore when you're standing watch alone is a death sentence.

So in my inexperienced opinion, the main purpose of a jack line is to keep you from being able to make it over the side.

I don't see the point of bothering with a jack line that will let you hit the water.
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Old 06-04-2013, 20:55   #14
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer Six View Post
Everything I've been reading lately says that going over the side offshore when you're standing watch alone is a death sentence.

So in my inexperienced opinion, the main purpose of a jack line is to keep you from being able to make it over the side.

I don't see the point of bothering with a jack line that will let you hit the water.
Agreed that staying out of the water is a very good thing, but singlehanding is a quite different situation than being on a crewed boat. On a crewed boat you should already have a workable system for getting someone back on board, so going over isn't necessarily a death sentence.

Mind you, I know a guy who knew a guy that drowned while being towed by his tether. There was another person on board (a competent sailor) who couldn't get the boat under control quickly enough to save the MOB.

I realize that I'm sending mixed signals here. My point is just that a less-than-perfect jackline system is still better than none at all. We use flat polyester webbing jackline run against the cabin sides (inside the shrouds) and tethers with the "overload indicator" stitching and proper tether shackles.
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Old 06-04-2013, 21:16   #15
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Re: Life lines - How to question...

There's a lot of reasons above that answer the reason I use a amidships jack line ! I may have to change my hook up's once or even twice to get all the way forward, but with 2 hookups we are still safe and no way will I or my crew go in the water! just my 2 cents
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