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wungout 12-19-2006 12:01 PM

Lifeline stanchions
Decisions, decisions. I have to replace the storm-battered lifeline system on a Nicholson 32. I want to err on the side of strength and safety (assuming I'll always err!). The original stanchions were a conventional 24 inches tall. The Nicholson 32 MKX, being an otherwise fine boat, has a cockpit from which it can be precarious going forward. I'm thinking taller couldn't hurt, but I don't want to go to a lot of expense and trouble to wind up with an aesthetic freak. Does anyone have 30-inch stanchions on a boat this size? Do they work, in every sense? Would 28-inch be a good compromise? Stop worrying and go back with 24? Incidentally, one of the first sailing books I ever read said lifelines are too dangerous--just something to trip over. Gosh, those old cruisers were salty.

Faster 12-19-2006 12:14 PM

I think there are two issues with going taller - aesthetic and engineering. By going taller you do risk its looking "odd" - but one of the knocks on lifelines is that those that don't ruin the look of smaller boats do end up being "trip" lines more than lifelines (or as one friend used to call them "death lines")

The other issue is that as you go taller, you will put proportionately higher forces on the bases and mounts in the event they are ever really tested.

For the ultimate in safety (but not attractive on a smaller boat, and quite costly) would be solid SS rails all around.

We sailed a boat without lifelines for many years - the only time anyone fell off was during a wild broach - and I'm not sure lifelines would have prevented those MOB events in any event.

sailingdog 12-19-2006 12:34 PM

Just remember that the taller stanchions will have more leverage and torque when someone falls against them than the older, shorter ones did...and should have substantial backing plates, probably larger than what was previously used.

Also, don't use vinyl covered cables for the lifelines. Just use plain 1x19 stainless instead. The vinyl covers can help cause and hide corrosion problems. If you're going 30 inches, it might be worth doing three lifelines, rather than just two IMHO. It's a bit pricier, but some think it is worthwhile.

CS Johnson
makes a lot of different fittings for lifelines. Garhauer Marine has stanchion bases and such.

sailingfool 12-19-2006 02:34 PM

24 inches
54 Attachment(s)
24 inches is a very common height for sailboat stanchions, I doubt you gain anything worth gaining by increasing it, especially as you will live daily with the awkward cosmetics of stanchions/lifelines that don't match your bow and stern rail heights,as it'd cost a small fortune to raise the rails...
Check the wish list for something with greater utility to spend this money on...

Cruisingdad 12-19-2006 03:16 PM

You know, I read this and I think I might actually disagree with the comments above. I would increase the height if I were re-doing them (well, depending on where they strike you right now).

I agree that: 1) It will be costly. (2) It will put more stress on them, just due to the basic physics of leverage. (3) It will not be as nice looking.

However, it is safer. Go look at a Pacific Seacraft or a Valiant or other boats that are set up for real offshore work. They have higher lifelines that what most boats have. My problem with my lines is that they strike me right at the knees. Geezz! what a great way to flip over. Raising the lines would help. So what if you bent the thing! If it kept you on the boat, who cares if you had to replace it?? Maybe it just saved your life.

The only "counter" I will say to this is that most of the time in seas, you are really hunched over going down the Catwalk anyways... so it is not going to strike you like you were walking down the deck at anchor/docked. Still, every little but helps.

Just my thoughts.

- CD

PS I probably would not do this if it was just a lake boat or very coastal (not to say that you cannot drownd coastal or on a lake). Just, the seas will not be quite the same. If I did much offshore work at all (AT ALL) I would raise them. Also, make sure you are not going to screw up your Jib too much when you tack/Jibe.

wungout 12-19-2006 03:30 PM


Originally Posted by sailingfool
24 inches is a very common height for sailboat stanchions, I doubt you gain anything worth gaining by increasing it, especially as you will live daily with the awkward cosmetics of stanchions/lifelines that don't match your bow and stern rail heights,as it'd cost a small fortune to raise the rails...
Check the wish list for something with greater utility to spend this money on...

Excellent points! I should add, the bow pulpit was smashed along with the stanchions in Hurricane Ivan. The stern pulpit is a custom-made, cage affair and very tall. No problem there. This is what got me started down this path in the first place, I suppose. I have yet to replace the bow rail, so I could fit it to new stanchion heights and, voila! Experience has taught me, however, that my bright ideas aren't always what they appear in the flash of inspiration. Just wondering if anyone has 30-inch stanchions on their 32-33 foot boat. Thanks for the observations so far.

hellosailor 12-19-2006 03:31 PM

I've always felt a lifeline was there for two reasons:

First, to nudge the back of your leg and remind you "Hey dummy, you're about to step off the boat!". Taller or shorter won't affect that gentle reminder, 30" tall might just make it tall enough to tear at belts and pockets. And if you're loading or unloading the boat, the damned things just get in the way, taller gets in the way more.

Second, so you've got something to grab while you are about to ROLL off the deck, or lying on the deck, or seated on the deck. In which case 24" is still plenty tall enough to do the job.

Any way you could just install something else--inboard--to grab or assist in the lunge in/out of the cockpit?

If you want a cheap trial of taller stanchions, stop at the hardware store, get some 1/2" PVC pipe, cut it up into 30" lengths, and tie them to the stanchions on one side of the boat. See how you like that, before you invest in stainless. Shouldn't cost you more than $5-6 for six pieces that way.

TrueBlue 12-19-2006 03:36 PM

Although a different scenario than wungout's, I have considered raising the railing at the aft helm deck on my boat, for several reasons.

Currently the solid teak cap over SS stanchions, completely lining my boat's perimeter, is 24" from deck. This normally provides adequate safety when offshore, but this comfort level begins to diminish when on the low side while heeled over. I think it's at the correct height, aesthetically and functionally, but my wife wishes it was a few inches higher.

Her greatest concern is the rigidity of the railing. last year, she received a nasty hematoma after slamming her back against the teak rail, after being subjected to a huge ferry wake. A lifeline would have been more resilient.

The consideration shortly after this incident, was to extend 8"-12" SS stanchions above the teak cap, threaded with a tensioned SS lifeline. Thankfully, this silly idea has not been brought up again since.

dnseal 12-20-2006 08:56 PM

Stainless all the around (top rail only of course)
I agree with Faster's comments, stainless top rail all the way around. Not only would it increase the possibilitiy of grabbing ahold of it, but since all the stanchions are now connected the over all system strength would improve greatly. I will be modifying my Stella as such, but then again with a 58ft LOD I guess she need something like this.


Builditjose 11-08-2009 06:14 AM

What I see as a concern regarding the stanchions is the ones in my 30' call are mounted on the deck inboard of the toe trim. That reduces my walking area by 5" don't appear much, but in a dry run it makes a difference when freed up. I am considering buying or having build through the hull side monting stanchions that would bolt 2" below the rub rails. They would be 3" wide by 5" long 1/4" plate with 1" tube soket wellded along the center of the 5" lenght of the plate. It would have four through bolted mounting bolts with a 1/8" backing plate. All bolts will have appropriate size washer on the inside. the stanchions will be 36" long by 31/32" held in place with through bolt and lock nut. The stachions will have two safet SS wire. After installation the Stanchions should be 25" above the deck. Please comment on my idea as I am seriously interested in increasing the walk area from cockpit to bow on my boat. It allows me to have greater balance. Thank you

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