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Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: New Westminster, BC
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An aluminum toerail's prime purpose is to stain your hull in the rainy season so that you don't ignore the poor old girl and actually have to wash her now and then.
Seriously, we've had both, and none, on the various boats we've owed over the years. A wood one is beautiful accent until it isn't... perforated aluminum is very convenient for clipping halyards and blocks to, tying fenders (as mentioned), having none forces you to be vigilant outside the cockpit, esp if there are no lifelines either. I occasionally walk forward up the lee side deck (for example to adjust a leech line on the jib) and do rely on the toerail then.
OTOH in the event of a deck-edge-damaging collision (say a port/starboard incident racing) that mangled toe rail is probably the toughest thing to straighten out...
1984 Fast/Nicholson 345 "FastForward"
".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
Capt G E Ericson (from "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat)