Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Wilson, NY
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Prior to a 100 miler single handed race on L. Michigan, a number of us single handers were discussing the use of safety harnesses. One well respected, and experienced singlehander said he did not use one because, in his opinion, once you go over, forget it - your chances of reboarding are slim. Indeed he was supported by the death of a L. Michigan singlehander the year before who had been found dead, tethered overboard to his beached yacht.
In thinking this over, it would seem to me that the most likely time to go over is when on the fordeck. If one goes over and is tethered, one will only be able to progress sternward as far as the first lower. If you fall over on the high side, forget it - you will never get aboard. On the leeward side you might climb back aboard, but in any kind of wind you will be fighting a lot of bow wave etc.
If you have used a tether, you are undoubtedly aware of what a pain they are, and even sometimes they cause as many problems as they seem to solve. I know that I have often times gotten fouled up in my tether making my trip up on deck more difficult and longer lasting than needed and putting the boat in peril longer than necessary.
Going back to the guy found tethered and dead. He fell over during a mid September race. L Michigan water temp is usually fairly mild that time of year. He concievably could have survived 12 hours before hypothermea set in. Attached to his boat he may have got beat to death against the hull. Unattached he may have washed up on shore alive, as his boat did.
I confess that in calm conditions I will go up on deck unthethered. As things get rougher, I do use my tether, but I am not always sure it really helps, since it makes working on deck so much harder. For long distances I run a line outside of everything from stem to stern that hangs a foot or two below the rail on both sides. I use two tethers thinking (hoping) if I do go over on the fore deck, I can attach the 2nd tether to the stem/stern line and cut the other tether. I would, then, of course, still have a fight to get back aboard once I reached my stern boarding ladders. I feel a scuba divers knife on one''s leg provides a good method to cut a tether. One must have knife that can be accessed and used with one hand.