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Old 20-07-2013, 10:23   #1
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Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

I know handrails can be incredibly useful to some, but I'm looking for different schools of thought on this topic.

Do you find that you actually use the handrails on your boat when moving forward or are they more for decoration? We have a Westsail 32 with pretty high gunwales, 2 bunhuggers on each side 3 side stays on each side and substantial stanchions.

We are considering removing the handrails all together or only keeping the set in the front to reduce maintenance and open the deck up more. We don't see a lot of newer model boats with these kinds of handrails and wonder if they are really necessary. There seem to be a lot of other things I grab ahold to first like the bunhuggers (which were added post construction).

Can anyone share a real life experience out cruising where the handrails were incredibly useful or where someone has taken them off/modified them to take up less deck space? I'd really like to get these things off the deck if possible, but don't want to be foolish. Thank you!!!

See attached photo for location of deck handholds.
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Old 20-07-2013, 10:51   #2
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

I use mine every time I crawl forward or aft on the boat. I do a lot of that. Either I'm chicken or the wind is blowing........
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Old 20-07-2013, 10:53   #3
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

I'm pretty sure I've never used the outside handrails, but I do use the interior ones all the time. The insides are through-bolted to the outside ones, so if I took the outside ones off, I'd have to find another way to secure them.

The outside handrails look much nicer than a row of backing plates.
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Old 20-07-2013, 10:57   #4
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

The original welded aluminum handrails on Panope's house were similar to yours. I removed them to de-clutter the space. To me they seemed too low to be effective has a handrail unless one was already on their knees. However, they were effective as a "foot rail" when working on top of the house. They were also used a lot for lashing odds and ends on to the house top. Overall, I am happy with the decision to remove them.

I am not an "offshore" sailor and do not often encounter the "rough stuff". If I decide to expose myself to a more challenging piece of water I might add a temporary line located in the same position as the the rail.

This line will be set up nice and tight so that it will be suspended above the deck and therefore easy to grab in an instant. Could also use it as a jack-line to clip harness onto.

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Old 20-07-2013, 10:58   #5
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkSF View Post
I'm pretty sure I've never used the outside handrails, but I do use the interior ones all the time. The insides are through-bolted to the outside ones, so if I took the outside ones off, I'd have to find another way to secure them.

The outside handrails look much nicer than a row of backing plates.
Mark, What kind of boat do you have that has Inner and Outer handrails?
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Old 20-07-2013, 11:00   #6
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Danibug View Post
I know handrails can be incredibly useful to some, but I'm looking for different schools of thought on this topic.

Do you find that you actually use the handrails on your boat when moving forward or are they more for decoration? We have a Westsail 32 with pretty high gunwales, 2 bunhuggers on each side 3 side stays on each side and substantial stanchions.

We are considering removing the handrails all together or only keeping the set in the front to reduce maintenance and open the deck up more. We don't see a lot of newer model boats with these kinds of handrails and wonder if they are really necessary. There seem to be a lot of other things I grab ahold to first like the bunhuggers (which were added post construction).

Can anyone share a real life experience out cruising where the handrails were incredibly useful or where someone has taken them off/modified them to take up less deck space? I'd really like to get these things off the deck if possible, but don't want to be foolish. Thank you!!!

See attached photo for location of deck handholds.

I use mine all the time and encourage newbies to use them. They encourage you to keep your center away from the lifelines, which on my boat are only knee high and in bad circumstances could help you flip overboard.
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Old 20-07-2013, 11:09   #7
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

I would definitely leave them on. If you are fighting your way forward to do something in rough water they are very useful. I know it's hard to viualize bending over etc, but I've been in situations where I only felt safe moving a step at a time with hands on that rail... a foot and a half of water running down the side decks.. Or had to pause, kneeling wedged at the chainplates and hanging on as green water came over the boat. If you dont like the varnishing, have SS ones made. it's a lot of work to remove them , fill holes etc all for something you need for safety.
I also tie things to them running between anchorages, marinas etc... fenders, boathook.... even my 8' dingy on my 30 foot boat was strapped to the handrails on the foredeck going down the west coast....
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Old 20-07-2013, 11:12   #8
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

Danibug,

Even though we have a larger boat, and one more stable in a seaway, we both often use our exterior hand rails. The rule, one hand for yourself; one hand for the boat pertains during ocean crossings, and indeed, in any seaway. If you rely on the lifelines and the mast pulpit for security, as Raku points out, your center of gravity is closer to the lifelines, and a sudden lurch or roll could easily send you right over the lifeliines. Hand rails are there for a serious purpose.

I hear where you're coming from on the maintenance, and I suggest after you varnish them next, you go on and paint them whatever color you want. Both "unfinished" teak silver, and a "varnished teak" color look really good.

On our boat, some things are lashed to the cabin top handrails, as well, the fender board, a rescued kayak paddle (emergency propeller for our dinghy).

Ann
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Old 20-07-2013, 13:10   #9
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

If for nothing else, they are very handy to tie things to like the unused sail ties for the main, sail bags left on deck, the Avon Redcrest that fit very nicely half inflated aft of the mast, etc. You'll find a cruising boat tends to pick up stuff that will only fit on the cabin top and having something to lash them to a huge benefit.

Having said that, wood handrails are a PITA to maintain and a source of deck leaks. Replaced the wood hand rails on my new old boat with stainless rails. They are very strong, don't flex or leak like the wood ones, and, miracle of miracles, don't need varnish. Our boat originally had 5' and 3' sections of rail per side. Replaced them with 2 and 1 sections of 24" stainless rails bolted up from underneath. They were quite reasonable from eBay
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Old 20-07-2013, 13:18   #10
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

depends on if you wish your stanchions to be ripped out with some folks boarding your boat...btdt. not fun.
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Old 20-07-2013, 13:33   #11
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

This is a great question for your insurance company and your lawyer. If someone is ever injured on your boat and can prove you removed the rails, god help you.

Also I use them to help keep my footing when the boat is heeling and I'm standing on the cabin top.
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Old 20-07-2013, 17:19   #12
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

I varnish mine, tie things to them, and hang onto them while crawling. Love them.

When in doubt, don't.
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Old 20-07-2013, 19:13   #13
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

If you do the "hanging on" with the bunhuggers, then sounds like the handrails are redundant. Not that you would have success with that argument should anyone who ever stepped on your boat decide they have been "injured" by your decision. But you can't live your life trying to find legal protection from unimaginable (or only imaginary) hazards.

But you mentioned reduced maintenance. I replaced mine with stainless. No varnishing and no canvas to hide the beautiful work I had just done.

As for "does anyone actually use?". I'm thinking that you're asking the wrong question. If you ever change boats, you may find that you use them a lot on the new boat. But I'm guessing that you've been spoiled by your bunhuggers and would quickly design some that would have you.... not using your handrails... again.

I'm guessing that this question is going to eat at you until you do it. It would me. The fact that you're asking yourself (and the forum) tells me that you want to remove them. When I go through choices like this, I am usually much happier for years after, to do what I wanted rather than listen to the "inside the box" thinkers.
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Old 20-07-2013, 19:41   #14
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

the million dollar question is were they in a good spot in the first place?

I wound up removing mine when I painted my flybridge fairing...they looked cool there but I never got around to reinstalling them. I saved them just in case but after a 4 month cruise and never really missing them...I'm not going to put them back.

Now I'm working on my overhead in the main saloon where it has a handrail down the middle the full length of the cabin...again a little used device except to hang stuff on occasionally...but they do get held occasionally...so these I'm thinking longer and harder about getting rid of them.

So the bottom line is...if they are in a place that gets grabbed all the time...they stay...if not... then be gone I say.
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Old 20-07-2013, 19:54   #15
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Re: Handrails - remove them all together or keep them?

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Originally Posted by psneeld View Post
the million dollar question is were they in a good spot in the first place?

I wound up removing mine when I painted my flybridge fairing...they looked cool there but I never got around to reinstalling them. I saved them just in case but after a 4 month cruise and never really missing them...I'm not going to put them back.

Now I'm working on my overhead in the main saloon where it has a handrail down the middle the full length of the cabin...again a little used device except to hang stuff on occasionally...but they do get held occasionally...so these I'm thinking longer and harder about getting rid of them.

So the bottom line is...if they are in a place that gets grabbed all the time...they stay...if not... then be gone I say.

I have them on both sides of the cabin as well and have used them there also.
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