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Old 17-07-2018, 09:54   #1
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To tether or not, that is the question

Good afternoon Cruising friends!

First off, I know the answer to the question is YES, in an ideal world all sailors everywhere in every situation should be tethered to the boat - even during evening cocktails in the cockpit - amen.

What I'm actually asking about is your personal experience, opinion, and risk threshold. I'm sailing the Chesapeake for 9 days, alone.

I have prepared everything possible for this little excursion and am quite comfortable with my sailing ability and my equipment. I have VHF (and hand held backup) GPS (and handheld backup) elec. chart, paper charts, and even a sextant (and yes, I can use it) but pretty sure that's overkill for the bay.

Buuuuut I completely forgot to rig a jackline and buy a harness. So. Dear reader - do I delay my trip and sort this out for safety? Or do I just go and continue to always wear my PFD (i do always wear this, unless down below).

I'd hate to waste a day and $$ rigging an ad-hoc solution for something not necessary, if possible. Rest assured, it will be high priority before any future solo sailing.

I will not be sailing at night, or in foul weather (if possible) I will anchor.

Your opinions? Your risk tolerances?

Thank you!

-Gene
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Old 17-07-2018, 10:02   #2
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

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Originally Posted by ArmySailor View Post
Good afternoon Cruising friends!

First off, I know the answer to the question is YES, in an ideal world all sailors everywhere in every situation should be tethered to the boat - even during evening cocktails in the cockpit - amen.

What I'm actually asking about is your personal experience, opinion, and risk threshold. I'm sailing the Chesapeake for 9 days, alone.

I have prepared everything possible for this little excursion and am quite comfortable with my sailing ability and my equipment. I have VHF (and hand held backup) GPS (and handheld backup) elec. chart, paper charts, and even a sextant (and yes, I can use it) but pretty sure that's overkill for the bay.

Buuuuut I completely forgot to rig a jackline and buy a harness. So. Dear reader - do I delay my trip and sort this out for safety? Or do I just go and continue to always wear my PFD (i do always wear this, unless down below).

I'd hate to waste a day and $$ rigging an ad-hoc solution for something not necessary, if possible. Rest assured, it will be high priority before any future solo sailing.

I will not be sailing at night, or in foul weather (if possible) I will anchor.

Your opinions? Your risk tolerances?

Thank you!

-Gene
Hey Gene,

Sounds like a great trip. My personal opinion if I were doing that trip alone is I'd be wearing a harness clipped to jacklines whenever I leave the cockpit.

It's such cheap insurance... If you fall off at night and the boat sails away without you, chances are good that's all she wrote.
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Old 17-07-2018, 10:06   #3
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

I sail the lower bay where it's about 20-30 miles wide, and if I'm way heeled over, I'll put on the harness and tether to a nearby cleat.

If I'm staying in the cockpit sometimes I won't hookup but this is when I'm wide awake and not tired

On Sunday still close to 10 miles out, I did go sit on the cabin top near the mast (windward side) and had a celebratory beer because a nice wind had come up which allowed me to make it home before I ran out of gas.

I wasn't tethered but did have on my PFD and was within 5 miles of the Bridge and Tunnel Island #3 with a strong outgoing tide.......

But this is each sailor's call. If all else fails, you can tie yourself on.

Btw, I'm on autopilot 98% of the time
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Old 17-07-2018, 12:34   #4
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

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Hey Gene,

Sounds like a great trip. My personal opinion if I were doing that trip alone is I'd be wearing a harness clipped to jacklines whenever I leave the cockpit.

It's such cheap insurance... If you fall off at night and the boat sails away without you, chances are good that's all she wrote.


Thanks for your input. I'm not sailing at night, just FYI, not sure if you caught that part. But I'm chalking your input down as 1 "for"

Based on your input, the one below, and my old yacht racing friend who i respect, I think harness wins...

-Gene
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Old 17-07-2018, 12:52   #5
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

big front just blew through - probably some folks in the bay who dragged anchor - hope all are safe.

Re the OP . . . . there are some things to consider with solo sailing and tethers - because (arguably) you are more likely to die if you go over tethered than not tethered. There is no-one to pull you or help you back on board.

If your tether/clip points are such that you can not go over board - then great - but most are not set up that way. If you have the upper body strength to say do a bunch of one-armed pull-ups, then great - but most can not.

The Bay water is reasonably warm. There is a lot of small boat traffic. If you had a pfd and a waterprrof handheld vhf - you are (arguably) safer than with a tether. Your boat will (probably fetch up on a mud bank somewhere).
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Old 17-07-2018, 12:56   #6
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

Oops. I did miss the "not at night" part, but yes count me as one vote for the harness - especially sailing solo. My "harnesses" are the West Marine basic offshore jackets with built-in harnesses. Not cumbersome at all. They come up on sale for about $100 off once or twice a year - https://www.westmarine.com/buy/west-...77?recordNum=2

I often think of this guy when I put on my harness... How lucky he is and how I never want to experience that...
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Old 17-07-2018, 13:37   #7
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

We have 2 rules - Rule #1 is don't go overboard, Rule #2 is see Rule #1. Underway offshore we always wear inflatable PFDs. Don't bother in the ICW or short trip across a harbor etc. At night or in rough weather, we are tethered in as soon as we leave the cabin. The inflatable PDF's we own have a harness built in. So it's easy to transition to tether or not depending on circumstance. Single handing? I wouldn't do it without the ability to tether yourself to the boat. **** can happen in an instant.


My $.02
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Old 17-07-2018, 17:28   #8
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

If it actually matters to you, you can probably rig something good from gear on hand.


Yes, I think it is more important than most of the other gear you listed. I started sailing long before GPS, but I did clip in when alone, and in the summer severe whether can be any day. You'll really like that tether when the furler jams just as a thunderstorm hits.
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Old 17-07-2018, 18:43   #9
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

I sail singlehanded on the Chesapeake too. Always wear an inflatable PFD with an integral harness and one of two tethers: one is long, one is short. I Use a flat ribbon from the cockpit to the foredeck and clip to it; in the cockpit, I clip to one of several hardpoints.
I also make sure I have a ladder deployed. I bought an emergency rpe and plastic one I leave overboard and I have a regular one I sometimes leave out. The anti-tether people might be right about it being fruitless, but it seems to make sense to me.
Even if you don't have the flat sort of jackline, you could certainly rig something up and make up your own tether. Mine is a piece of line tied and with clipons at both ends.
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Old 17-07-2018, 19:05   #10
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

Hand held is only good if itís tethered to you all the time. Tethered to the boat, single handed? Yes.
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Old 17-07-2018, 19:23   #11
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

When I’m alone I clip in. Pfd vhf plb. VHF and plb tied with lanyards to pfd. The water is cold. I rarely leave the cockpit. If I do it’s often to pee. Tether length won’t let me go over the side then as I keep it short.
This is in New England.
I try to behave as if I am untethered, with care. I need to leave the cockpit to hoist, lower, or reef the main. The mizzen goes up first and down last. The jib is roller furling.
My tether has a quick release on the harness end.
And when I am leaving or arriving at anchor or mooring or dock I have the pfd on but no tether.
Sailing solo is a blast. Leaves me with a sense of accomplishment.
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Old 18-07-2018, 03:53   #12
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

Like reefing if you think it might be a good idea —-do it.
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Old 18-07-2018, 03:59   #13
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

Another reason I'm starting to clip onto the tether more often is to simply get used to doing it for when I do sail WAY offshore in the Ocean out of VHF range for the boat (which is totally out of range for handheld) unless another boat happens to be near by which you can't count on

Sometime I'll also clip in when reading, cat-napping coming up or down the bay while lying down on the low side lazarette. PFD serves as a headrest
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Old 18-07-2018, 04:12   #14
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

Alone most the time, I wear an inflatable pfd, and carry a PLB, but I don't tether. I am mostly coastal, and fair weather sailing now. Everything is done from the cockpit, that's the advantage of the Leisure Furl boom. When I was sailing off shore, especially at night, Jacklines were always rigged, and harnesses worn. Had a separate Jackline in the cockpit so it was possible to clip on while still in the companion way.
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Old 18-07-2018, 04:42   #15
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Re: To tether or not, that is the question

Okay, I'm going to go against the grain here. The Chesapeake is a fairly busy waterway, and this time of year the water is relatively warm. If you make sure to always wear a PFD when you are sailing, or out of the cockpit, and do not do any sailing at night, then I think the risk is low enough that you can get by without being tethered.


I would be certain to have a good whistle on the PFD (not the cheesy ones that usually come with them), and would seriously consider also keeping a handheld VHF (waterproof, of course) or a PLB attached to it.


Good luck, and have fun, whatever you decide to do.
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