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vardaman7 07-21-2007 10:12 PM

Life Lines
I am restoring an older 27' boat and think it would look better without the life lines. I have only 8-10 " of walking room around the cabin top anyway. They see to be more of a trip hazard than a safety feature. Would like to leave the bow and stern pulpits for hanging the anchor, mounting the grill etc. I will be sailing inland lakes for a while and can't see the need to spend the money for no reason. Any thoughts?

Freesail99 07-21-2007 10:26 PM

At the very least, string some rope, if you don't want to spend the money on lifelines. Going with nothing, I think would be a very bad idea.

sailingdog 07-21-2007 10:30 PM

Do you have all the lines lead aft to the cockpit—main halyard, topping lift, reefing lines, cunningham, outhaul, etc. Do you have the genoa/jib on a roller furler with the furling lines led to the cockpit?

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then you might not need the lifelines/stanchions. However, if you are going to do this, you will want to equip the boat with jacklines, preferably central to the boat, but port and starboard if necessary.

vardaman7 07-21-2007 10:38 PM

Part of the refit will be setting up to single hand, Any work forward will be on the cabin top. Any slip and the top life line will be at my ankle, Cost is not as much a consideration as breaking a leg.

Faster 07-21-2007 11:06 PM

We sailed many years on a 24 foot raceboat that had no stanchions or lifelines. No one ever fell off the boat because the lifelines weren't there. Once you are accustomed to the idea, it's not so bad. In fact, I once sailed on the same design that had lifelines (due to it being a distance race and the rules required them) and they were noticeably in the way and sailing the boat was uncomfortable.

Many refer to them as "deathlines" given their greater likelihood of tripping you rather than saving you, especially on smaller boats.

If you and your crew are relatively agile and surefooted, and you're unlikely to be often sailing in particularily rough conditions you'll probably be fine without them.

US25 07-21-2007 11:34 PM


I must respectfully disagree, as your advice is bad.

Keep the damn lifelines!

SEMIJim 07-21-2007 11:51 PM

Colour me stupid, but I fail to see how one could trip over a lifeline--unless one were in the process of going over the side already, anyway.

I agree that for anybody over a height of about three or four feet, a lifeline isn't likely to keep one from going in the drink if you're thinking about it as a kind of "safety net." To me: That is not the purpose of lifelines. To me: They're something to hang on to when there's nothing more substantial about, such as a shroud or grip rail.


Suppose you had to go forward in adverse conditions. Say you judged on-coming weather wrongly and had to get up front to take down the jib rather later than you should have. Weather and seas are so bad you can only get there safely (for some value of "safely") by crawling. You have no jacklines for the same reason that jib's still up. Wouldn't you rather have those lifelines between you and the water? I know I would.


Faster 07-22-2007 12:36 AM


Originally Posted by US25 (Post 169938)

I must respectfully disagree, as your advice is bad.

Keep the damn lifelines!

As will many, I'm sure....

But my point was, and Semi Jim made it as well, that they are not really "lifelines" in that they are unlikely to save anyone on their way overboard. On most boats they are 18-24 inches above deck at best, right around knee height - not an effective restraint unless you are already on your back.

Furthermore a 200 pounder falling across a boat into the lifelines could well break/bend/tear out stanchions on many more lightly constructed boats.

However: They ARE places to grab hold, they DO keep small persons and children within the confines of the deck, the DO help keep sails on deck, esp if netting or lacing is added.

Is it possible to run a boat without them? Absolutely, if the above mentioned aspects are not considered crucial.

BTW I have lifelines and stanchions on our current boat, in fact have had on all our boats other than the one mentioned above - and have no intentions to remove them for the reasons stated.

The question was - could they come off - and under certain intended usage and conditions I'd say yes they could.

sailaway21 07-22-2007 02:26 AM

As Faster say's, a lot depends on the boat. On my 21' Cal they would be particularly inconvenient if installed. The stanchions would be tripping you up more than any safety benefit derived from the lifelines. In my opinion, you are much more likely to be hurt by tripping than you are to be saved by the lifelines. As stated, for them to do much good you'd have to already be off your feet. Given that most lifelines are located well below your center of gravity, it is not like they are holding you on board. You're more likely to grab them on your way overboard than anything else. How well they perform at that time is dependant upon the quality of initial installation and subsequent maintenance. Given the below deck construction of most boats, how often do those stanchions get re-bedded?

Once again, I am finding myself in agreement with the Dog. Why not install something that works? Something that has a much greater potential to keep you on board versus clinging to the side. A well thought out set of jacklines coupled with an adjustable harness should be a higher priority than lifelines. That system will actually aid you when things get nasty.

I'm not sure that I'd remove lifelines already installed, unless they are a hindrance to mobility, and many can be. They certainly are an aid to containing adrift sails. This is certainly a subject that one cannot make any hard and fast statements on as it must depend upon the boat and her intended use.

wescarroll 07-22-2007 03:27 AM

Reese Pally doesn't like lifelines for voyaging at all, says the inhibit rescue if you fall overboard. My self I like em.

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