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Old 08-11-2019, 19:49   #1
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wire lifelines versus tubed rails

Why do sailboats tend to have wire lifelines whereas powerboats have tubed handrails. there is only one manufacturer of sailboats (Amel) that I am aware off installs tubed handrails all the way around, and have never seen wire lifelines on any powerboats, just wondering,

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Old 08-11-2019, 20:48   #2
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

We have solid stainless rails on our Amel, and we LOVE them. So much better handhold than wire.

I think a lot of sailboats carry far too much "race boat" baggage. Other than cost (obviously a big deal for the builder), the only reason I can think of to prefer wire over solid rails is flexibility when crew is sitting on the rail. Never seen that happen on a cruising boat.

Because every racing sailboat has wire lifelines, it is what people just "expect" to see.

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Old 08-11-2019, 21:28   #3
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

Racing sailboats resisted having lifelines for years because they didnt want the windage. They only have them now because races require them. Rigid rails would be worse.
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Old 08-11-2019, 22:06   #4
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

My wife, who had never sailed before, asked me that same thing. And I had no good answer for her other than "that's the way it's always been." She then said she hated the wire cables because they didn't feel safe or secure at all. I couldn't really argue with that. I actually agree.
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Old 08-11-2019, 22:14   #5
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

Love our solid tube lifelines on our Amel! They feel and are tremendously secure, and much nicer (IMHO) to tie fenders or dinghys to, as well offer a great grip as heave yourself up from below when coming up from the ladder or dink. We sit on them all the time with a beer, and you can walk right down them if your balance is good I'm sure it's cost, weight, windage issue, but I don't care. Wouldn't trade them for anything.
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Old 09-11-2019, 01:55   #6
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

In close quarters, like say a busy town quay in the Med, there tends to be a fair amount of pushing and pulling on other people's lifelines (which I personally dislike intensely), significant force exerted on fenders as another yacht is moving past, and even the occasional anchor or jutting hydraulic pasarella sweeping through your boat's deck perimeter.

Wire lifelines can cope with most of those stresses without deformation, and if they do get damaged they are relatively cheap to replace. By comparison, in September I watched a boat with solid tube lifelines trying to leave a marina during an F8 Meltemi. He didn't quite make the turn, and ended up raking past several bows and anchors of moored boats. His entire starboard side was a mangled mess of inox tube, some of it gouging deep furrows in the deck and cabintop fiberglass. I imagine it would take thousands to fix.

The simplicity of wire has its advantages.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:19   #7
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

I believe Nauticats have a solid handrail. Combination of teak and stainless tubing??
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:25   #8
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

I too have wondered why sailboat have wire lifelines, and why they are so low. I am considering replacing at least the top one with a solid rail. Mine strike me about crotch high--just the right height to flip you over the side if you should lose your balance and fall against them. As a minimum I think they should be at least waist high.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:31   #9
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

One advantage of cable safety rails over tube is being able to drop the cable to deck level if you ever want to pull something large like an inflatable up on the deck. Although pipe rails are nice they are also permanent and cannot be so easily removed
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:35   #10
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

Perhaps one of best upgrades we did on our Passport 42 was replacing the top life lines running from the stern arch to the midship gate with 1 1/4: inch rail. It provides excellent protection esp when exiting and entering the cockpit in a seaway. I never had confidence in wire life lines. Additionally, a hand hold on the dodger makes this even better. Fair winds, Dave S
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:43   #11
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

I installed 1 inch ss rails on my previous Morgan-41, reinforced the bases and drove 7/8" ss tubes inside the I" stations for extra strength. The wife and I loved them! I am now in the process of doing the same on my "new to me" '89 Morgan-44.

Make one feel much safer at sea and I have not noticed any lack of performance on the race course.

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Old 09-11-2019, 09:45   #12
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

Aesthetics , costs, windage, cheaper to replace when damaged , easier to remove.

It is also a choice and a mental state of mind to think you are safer or not .
there could be instances that cutting a wire away to A.haul someone back on board or B,if they are tangled with their safety line within a hand rail. and other pros and cons one cannot imagine happening but Murphy's law applies.

there are pros and cons for everything on a boat and one can never truly say they are safe or not , as again it is an opinion with no hard facts.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:50   #13
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

We bought a boat with 24" stanchions and wire lines.

That height was just perfect for my 6-4 frame to trip over, not be restrained, so much.

So I replaced them with SS tubing throughout, tying the stern segment in with the arch we installed (had the fabricator make stubs for the tubing to go over at 15 and 30 inches).

For our 90' feet of length, total, for tubing and all the Sea Dog fittings (including the hard to find + rather than T center tees, and the fork-end fittings to go on the half-chain on the pulpit) was the best right-at-a-boat-buck we've ever spent.

I bent the hull curvature by just fixing one end of the either 20' or 24' sticks and pushing on the other until the resultant bow became the shape of the hull. Too much? Put both ends on something stable, and push on the middle until you reduce the curve as needed. At that length, the tubing bends easily.

I made the top rails solid (from pulpit to gate and from arch to gate), and used a metal hole saw to drill out the proper dimensions on the intermediate rails, yielding the right sized half-moon to engage the stanchion piece so it couldn't turn (recall curvature of the hull; you want it to stay in place).

Once everything was fitted, I drilled out the place where a set screw would normally engage, and used SS pop rivets to secure it all; the stanchion bases I drilled out a 1/4-20 engagement for a short machine screw, so they could be removed if needed, but still were secure (vs set screws which would not take a strong lift to dislodge, whether at tees or corners).

Looks great, better security, and doesn't break the bank.

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Old 09-11-2019, 10:08   #14
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

The largest power boats all have wire lifelines BECAUSE the are extremely strong and not rigid so they can be removed easily to clear a section for lines down operations. Think about refueling and replenshing at sea. Or life lines around the flight deck. They are horizontal during flight operation, vertical otherwise.

We are talking about large Warships here.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:24   #15
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Re: wire lifelines versus tubed rails

Think about converting from wire to Dyneema. Easy DIY project. Dyneema lifeline rigging hardware is available. First time a boat breaks free in a crowded anchorage see which type of lifelines are easier and cheaper to replace, wire, sunbeam or tubing.

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