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Old 07-05-2021, 11:56   #1
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How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

Im replacing my vinyl-coated lifelines with uncoated stainless 1x19 wire. Including the coating, the old ones are 3/8 diameter on the top as 5/16 on the bottom. Most things on my boat are beefy and oversized and I think Id like to follow suit with the lifelines.

Ignoring price for a moment, how big can I reasonably make the uncoated replacements? 3/8 seems absurdly large and heavy. What about 5/16 on the top and 1/4 on the bottom? Is this still stupidly large or approaching sensible?

My considerations include weight, aesthetics, hand feel, reducing slop in the stanchion holes, and strength. Cost is a factor too but I want to ignore that part for the moment. Any thoughts or experiences to share?
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Old 07-05-2021, 14:31   #2
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

Did mine with 1/4" wire from a riggers scrap pile. The diameter of the wire was reasonably comfortable to come in contact with. Rigging is almost always replaced due to corrosion/cracks in the swaged ends so no issues being used if it's clean with no broken strands. Cut the swages off and replace with StaLok fittings and you've got super strong life lines for just the cost of the fittings. Did my Westsail that way nearly 50 years ago and they are still on the boat.

9/32"/7mm would be a good compromise size if you wanted fatter lifelines. 3/8" is just too fat and heavy for my senses.
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Old 07-05-2021, 15:04   #3
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

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, how big can I reasonably make the uncoated replacements?
How big are the holes thru your stanchions? That would be your upper limiting factor.

And the WS OSR's minimums would be your lower limiting factor.

Between those two limit points . . . it is pretty much up to your personal esthetics.

If you liked the hand of the prior 10mm coated ones - you could think about using use 10mm dyneema - nice hand, awesome strength and not the weight of that size steel.

I guess in steel with your size boat 6mm would certainly not be 'too much'.
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Old 07-05-2021, 19:30   #4
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

For what its worth I like the look of uncoated life lines much better than dirty vinyl ...
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:43   #5
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

lifelines are typically more strands than standing rigging, unless you are a super competitive racer the weight between 1/4 and 3/8 isn’t an issue, if you have clearance through stanchons I would go big.
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:46   #6
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

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reducing slop in the stanchion holes
btw - if this is a meaningful issue for you . . . it is possible to bush the holes down to near whatever size wire you choose. Would be a bit of extra work, but not that hard.
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Old 08-05-2021, 11:33   #7
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

Our uppers are 1/4 and have been for 10+ years. Ive never grabbed them and thought to myself that theyre too small...fwiw
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Old 08-05-2021, 11:49   #8
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

Scorpius's lifelines were constructed with salvaged 1/4" rod rigging. I'm EXTREMELY happy with them. You can stand comfortably on the darn things. They look great too!
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Old 08-05-2021, 11:56   #9
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

Dyneema may be an option worth considering.
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Old 08-05-2021, 12:01   #10
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

Vinyl covering is really so you get a larger diameter for comfort without penalty of weight. And I'd worry about a meat-hook developing (one strand of metal sticking out) which won't happen in covered lifelines. Then you have to wrap duct tape at that point, or use those slit-lengthwise plastic shroud covers.
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Old 08-05-2021, 12:34   #11
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

FWIW, NZ prohibits vinyl-coated stainless steel wire lifelines due to potential risk for unseen corrosion under the vinyl if water gets in there.

Vinyl tubes are OK, but not wire with vinyl bonded to wire.
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Old 08-05-2021, 13:07   #12
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

Thanks for the input, all. Im def not considering vinyl coated. Had it on my last two boats and I dont like the way it looks, plus the hidden corrosion concern. I considered dyneema and Im familiar with its advantages but Im just not too keen on the idea.

The stanchion post holes will accept a 3/8 diameter on top and 5/16 on the bottom. The 3/8 diameter cable will have a slightly bigger swage, though, so 5/16 might be the biggest i can go. Im having them made by a rigger (machine roll swage) so Im just gonna give him a stanchion post and ask him to go as big as he can.

One more question and I know its another matter of opinion... the rigger recommended using the same size top and bottom. Right now my top lines are bigger. I think I like the idea of having them be same size but once again its hard to picture. Any opinions on the aesthetics of that, one size for both or bigger on top? (Again ignoring price and ability to fit for the moment)
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Old 08-05-2021, 13:37   #13
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

Have you checked Suncor stainless? They use mechanical fittings you can do yourself. I replaced my vinyl-coated with theirs (bare) and I am very satisfied. In fact I just had to shorten them a bit and it was very simple. They sell kits but you can also buy the wire and fittings separetely.
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Old 08-05-2021, 14:14   #14
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

For me, a big advantage of large bare s/s lifelines is the availability of vast quantities of free wire... old rigging that has been replaced due to the "ten year plan" mandated by insurance companies. Several friends have availed themselves of such freebies with good results. If one is using something like 8 mm or 5/16" wire, there is absolutely no concern about lack of strength with carefully selected used wire and the 1x19 construction means that meat hooks are very unlikely to develop in use as lifelines. One can retain one original terminal (having checked the swage for cracks) and utilize one mechanical terminal on the other end. The lifetime of such a wire in that usage is essentially forever... you'll not need to replace them.

I personally prefer Dyneema these days, due mostly to the weight advantage and ease of installation, but discarded rigging wire looks good for the frugal cruiser.

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Old 08-05-2021, 16:58   #15
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Re: How big is too big for uncoated stainless lifelines?

I am with Jim when it comes to using discarded rigging for lifelines. I surveyed a Roberts 45 last week and the lifelines were definitely 9 or 12mm recycled wire from last time the rigging was replaced. Felt good holding big diameter wire compared to our skinny lifelines.
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