Coated or Uncoated Lifelines?? - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 03-24-2010
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Coated or Uncoated Lifelines??

After prompting from the Boss and josrulz, I finally decided to replace my lifelines in lieu of a new-to-me symmetrical spinnaker (go fast or go safe, that was the question).

I thought that I was set on uncoated cable until I contacted the rigger that josrulz recommended. He was great (if all goes well, I'll post an update with his name), but he raised an alternative viewpoint. The rigger felt that uncoated cable is very difficult to see at night. We've done our share of night sailing and while I never had a problem seeing the shrouds, I wonder about uncoated lifelines. I felt that the question deserved to be vetted by the Sialnet Community, so have at it boys and girls!

We sail 1 or 2 overnight races and plan to race Annapolis-Newport within the next couple of years, so I want to be compliant with the offshore rules.

Thanks for the help.
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Old 03-24-2010
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Hey there,

According to The Pacific International Yachting Ass. They require all stainless steel life lines after 2006 to be uncoated. They have some very good specs on their list of to haves for racing in our neck of the woods.
As far as seeing them at night. I never had a problem finding them when needed covered or not.
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Old 03-24-2010
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Generally, the lifelines aren't seen at night, and if you're depending on seeing them to keep you aboard, you're making a big mistake. Most of the time, the lifelines act as a reminder that you're getting close to the edge when you brush up against them as you move about the boat, especially at night.
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Old 03-25-2010
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I am going to come out squarely in favor of COATED lifelines.

A number of years ago, there was a lot of hoopla made about coated lifelines being difficult to inspect, the bandwagon got going, and suddenly all the racing organizations were prohibiting coated wire for their offshore races.

But I have yet to see any hard evidence that properly maintained coated wire fails at a higher rate than bare wire. By properly maintained, I mean inspected and replaced on schedule.

Every instance of serious lifeline compromise I've seen occurred at the swage. Some were on coated wire, some bare wire.

In my opinion, bare wire is not user friendly and is a poor material choice for lifelines. In addition to being hard on the bare hands, it is far more prone to meathooks (if you've ever sliced your hand good on a meathook...)

I also agree that it is difficult to see uncoated wire in the darkness. An argument can be made that you shouldn't be relying on lifelines to keep you on deck (hmmm?) while underway. Maybe. But it's not only when underway that you rely on those lifelines.

At anchor, performing a midnight anchor check, you're not likely to be clipped in or using other safety gear. I know in my case, the closest I've ever come to going overboard was during a groggy walk forward to check the anchor. A visible coated lifeline saved me when I tripped. My sister's boat (with which we frequently rafted) has uncoated wire, which is essentially invisible at night.

Either way you go, it's a nice upgrade. But I would never give up the advantages of coated wire. The solution to the inspection-concern is to replace the coated wire on a schedule (every 7-10 years, or if there is any indication of issues). REplacing wire is not very expensive -- so doing it preventively is no real burden. It's the turnbuckles and pelican hooks that run up the cost -- but they don't normally need to be replaced on the same schedule.
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Old 03-25-2010
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But if you want to race, personal preference might have to take a backseat to the rules of the organization that sanctions the race, unless you can get a waiver or something.

The stink about coated wire comes from the fact that stainless steel will corrode in an anaerobic environment as well as the fact that you can't inspect for broken strands. Same thing with stainless steel chainplates that crack at the joint that's buried in the deck, and cut off from oxygen by marine sealant.

If the rules you're racing under require uncoated life lines and you really want to see them, consider carrying about a dozen Chem-lites. These are the snap-n-glow plastic lighting tubes about as long as your middle finger. Zip tie 'em to strategic points on your lifelines. They last about 12 hours and aren't bright enough to totally blast your night vision.
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One alternative that the rigger noted was that some racers have a "racing" set of life lines that are uncoated and run from bow to stern with no gates. They install the lifelines for races and then replace them with coated lifelines for cruising. He felt that stripping the coating away from the swage allowed water to drain and was adequate (along with frequent inspection) to maintain safety.

I'm inclined to agree that coated lifelines are perfectly safe because the reality is that my lifelines are 25 years old and still functional. If I go with coated line, I intend to have the coating stripped back 3/4" from the swage.

More viewpoints?
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That sounds like a great idea if you don't mind spending the money.
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The reality is that only a relatively few off-shore races stipulate uncoated wire for life-lines. I'm not aware of any local club/phrf type regattas that have this requirement. So you may never encounter this conflict.

But, as for expense, the bare wire is cheap. It would not set you back much at all to have an uncoated set made up if and when you absolutely needed it.
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I think that's the route that I'll take - coated for daily use (with stripped-back ends) and if/when needed, I'll make up another set of bare wire with no gates for race use. The race lifelines should be really cheap - a single wire with 1 turnbuckle that I'll save from my current set. Will only require 2 swages per lifeline.

Thanks all.
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I must be in the minority, cause no else seems to mention that plastic coated lines look like junk, especially after a few seasons in the sun. How people can put em on their pride and joy is beyond me.

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