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Kynntana (Freedom 38)
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just started taking off the very hard plastic covering the lifelines on my 1988 Freedom, which I'm pretty sure are all original. There is some rust but I'm not feeling any fraying on the lines. Just wanted to know what's the point at which it's recommended that they be replaced. Also, I've noticed larger diameter lifelines on newer boats. What's the current recommended sized? I plan to stick with stainless rather than spectra or something else. I would like to get some opinions before I start ordering anything. Thanks!
 

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Look most carefully at the end fittings (normally swaged). Rust causes swelling, and can cause the fittings to crack - and therefore be on the verge of failure. A magnifying glass may help; some people use a black dye to highlight cracks (I have not yet tried that).

Meathooks - small broken strands - are another reason for immediate replacement.

After that - if all the end fittings are solid, and the wire has no broken strands - the answer generally depends on your usage of the boat. If you are going offshore, the general recommendation is "if in doubt replace them" whatever the "them" may be. At the other extreme, a fair-weather lake sailor, you may decide to leave it a bit longer.

And photos always help!! :) Good luck
 

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Any visible rust is indicative of real problems since it indicates that water and salt have penetrated into the steel further than just the surface. It may be fine, but the not way to know for sure is to x-ray it. Recommended replacement intervals are every 10 years for uncoated wire, and immediatly for coated (or previously coated) wire.

The current minimum dimensions for lifelines are dependent on the size of the boat, while I disagree with this method and recommend the largest size period.

under 8.5 m (28ft).....3 mm (1/8 in)
8.5m - 13 m..............4 mm (5/32 in)
over 13 m (43 ft).......5 mm (3/16 in)

The only two acceptable options are either uncoated wire, or dyneema (preferably Dynex Duc). I highly recommend doing with dyneema over stainless, but if you are positive then go with 3/16" 316 or 316L uncoated stainless.

You can find more information at ISAF Special Regulations
 

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Any visible rust is indicative of real problems since it indicates that water and salt have penetrated into the steel further than just the surface. It may be fine, but the not way to know for sure is to x-ray it. Recommended replacement intervals are every 10 years for uncoated wire, and immediatly for coated (or previously coated) wire.

The current minimum dimensions for lifelines are dependent on the size of the boat, while I disagree with this method and recommend the largest size period.

under 8.5 m (28ft).....3 mm (1/8 in)
8.5m - 13 m..............4 mm (5/32 in)
over 13 m (43 ft).......5 mm (3/16 in)

The only two acceptable options are either uncoated wire, or dyneema (preferably Dynex Duc). I highly recommend doing with dyneema over stainless, but if you are positive then go with 3/16" 316 or 316L uncoated stainless.

You can find more information at ISAF Special Regulations
Could you please explain to me why anyone would use smaller lifeline wire on a smaller boat? I doubt the weight of the people on a smaller boat would be significantly less than those on a larger boat, so what advantage is there in having wire too weak for your average person's weight, on a smaller boat or much too strong on a larger one.
 

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Could you please explain to me why anyone would use smaller lifeline wire on a smaller boat? I doubt the weight of the people on a smaller boat would be significantly less than those on a larger boat, so what advantage is there in having wire too weak for your average person's weight, on a smaller boat or much too strong on a larger one.
Not a clue. I think going smaller is pretty stupid, but those are the recomendations.
 

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Wish I never found SN!
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There is nothing wrong with replacing coated wire with coated wire. You have a cruising boat and the quoted recommendations are for racing boats in races. By just stripping the plastic coating you will find the wire is murder on wet hands. Keep with plastic coated it looks and feels better, just change it if rust appears.
 
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I'd replace them but keep the plastic coating away from the end fittings.

About 8 years ago, I was considering replacing the standing rigging on my 20+ yr old boat. I bought some of that fluorescent dye that is s'posed to show cracks and it showed nothing. Then I read an article in the BOAT US insurance mag "Seaworthy" about how to inspect rigging. I took a 10X loupe and found splotches of rust on the fittings and then used fine sandpaper to remove the rust over them. I was amazed to find tiny cracks. I replaced all the rigging.

I kept the cracked rigging because I wanted to do an article on this topic but never got around to taking the pics. Maybe I'll go find that rigging out in my yard somewhere and do it now.
 

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Kynntana (Freedom 38)
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
There is nothing wrong with replacing coated wire with coated wire. You have a cruising boat and the quoted recommendations are for racing boats in races. By just stripping the plastic coating you will find the wire is murder on wet hands. Keep with plastic coated it looks and feels better, just change it if rust appears.
This is true, however, I race my boat and need to have uncoated wire for the offshore stuff. Stripping the wire was going to be my first step. I was just surprised at how much rust I'm seeing. A friend who is doing the same on a newer boat has shiny wire. Before I started taking the coating off, there had been slight discoloration at the swage fittings, which was worrisome, but I didn't expect there to be as much rust as there is all along the wire. I pretty much knew my lifelines needed to be replaced once I saw their condition. Thought I'd ask the question and see what great info I could glean from the answers. I always have gloves on so how it feels is not a strong argument for me. Since I short-hand and single-hand, no one is hanging off the lifelines either (ugh). Truth be known, I actually dig the look of bare SS.
 

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Kynntana (Freedom 38)
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Frogman, thanks for the info. I had to Google "loup". In field work, we call it a hand lens. No matter, this is a great idea and would be much better than those plastic magnifying lens that I now have. It's also my new word for the day :)
 

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My lifelines had some visible rust, and not that long ago I took apart and cleaned and lubed the threaded fittings and figured that would help for a while. Last week I grabbed the port bow section of the lifeline while repositioning a dock line and it broke completely off. The threaded portion of the line broke off flush with the turnbuckle. A wake up call to say the least!

I replaced the entire mess with bare stainless wire with all new fittings (turnbuckles, gates, pelican hooks and all). It was really not that expensive and the feeling of security is worth every penny!
 

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This is true, however, I race my boat and need to have uncoated wire for the offshore stuff. Stripping the wire was going to be my first step. I was just surprised at how much rust I'm seeing. A friend who is doing the same on a newer boat has shiny wire. Before I started taking the coating off, there had been slight discoloration at the swage fittings, which was worrisome, but I didn't expect there to be as much rust as there is all along the wire. I pretty much knew my lifelines needed to be replaced once I saw their condition. Thought I'd ask the question and see what great info I could glean from the answers. I always have gloves on so how it feels is not a strong argument for me. Since I short-hand and single-hand, no one is hanging off the lifelines either (ugh). Truth be known, I actually dig the look of bare SS.
If you are planning on racing then I would suggest going to synthetic anyway. Much more comfortable if you have someone hanging off the rail. Especially if you want to DIY it is much better as you can do the splices yourself, and use lashings to put them on.
 

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Kynntana (Freedom 38)
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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
If you are planning on racing then I would suggest going to synthetic anyway. Much more comfortable if you have someone hanging off the rail. Especially if you want to DIY it is much better as you can do the splices yourself, and use lashings to put them on.
I already race and no one is going to hang outside the lifelines on my boat, which doesn't seem safe and always seemed contrary to the racing rules. Besides, winning is just an ego boost. It's not what drives me.

I really have struggled with whether to replace with synthetic. Done a ton of research and just can't balance the pros and cons between the two. My biggest concerns about synthetic are that you can't really tell when there's UV damage, the periodic loosening of the lashings, and my lack of confidence that I can splice them correctly. The biggest issues with steel are the weight and not being able to fix it like you can with synthetic. (Maybe that 3:2 issue ratio is the tipping point right there...) I've read where costs are not really a factor between the two, but haven't priced them out. So, yeah, I'm leaning toward bare SS because I like the fact that I can assess its condition over time and it will last longer, but I'm really still on the fence!
 

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I prefer coated S/S and have found that putting heat shrink tube over the joint between the coating and the swage fitting will extend the life of the lines dramatically. As long as the coating remains unbroken the wire stays dry.

Wiping them down regularly with Armor-All or similar and removing them during the off season helps a lot as well.
 

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There is nothing wrong with replacing coated wire with coated wire. You have a cruising boat and the quoted recommendations are for racing boats in races. By just stripping the plastic coating you will find the wire is murder on wet hands. Keep with plastic coated it looks and feels better, just change it if rust appears.
Yes there is. Coated wire is a known corrosion problem and there is no way to prevent water from migrating under the coating. The raci rules were developed as a safety issue, and coated wire was specifically prohibited because there is no way to do it safely. Which is why many of the best riggers just won't install them anymore, they are dangerous, and there is no advantage to them over synthetics.
 

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I already race and no one is going to hang outside the lifelines on my boat, which doesn't seem safe and always seemed contrary to the racing rules. Besides, winning is just an ego boost. It's not what drives me.

I really have struggled with whether to replace with synthetic. Done a ton of research and just can't balance the pros and cons between the two. My biggest concerns about synthetic are that you can't really tell when there's UV damage, the periodic loosening of the lashings, and my lack of confidence that I can splice them correctly. The biggest issues with steel are the weight and not being able to fix it like you can with synthetic. (Maybe that 3:2 issue ratio is the tipping point right there...) I've read where costs are not really a factor between the two, but haven't priced them out. So, yeah, I'm leaning toward bare SS because I like the fact that I can assess its condition over time and it will last longer, but I'm really still on the fence!
It's pretty simple, synthetics (dyneema only) is stronger, lighter, cheaper, and easier to replace. The downside is that they are not as cut resistant as stainless.

Recent testing on chaff found that assuming a 316 stantion, properly sized dyneema will actually wear away the cutting edge of a sharp stantion edge long before the line looses significant strength.

As for cost... I replaced all of the lifelines on my 30' boat for $120, or about the cost of one turnbuckle fitting. They are cheap enough to replace every year, but I haven't bothered. Mine are going on five years old now and are still in good shape. Their absolute strength is an open question, but they are still far stronger than the bow stantion, as evidenced by the fact that the bow stantion had to be replaced last year when a crew member fell onto the lifelines and two of the bow legs ripped out, but the lifelines were un damaged.
 

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Kynntana (Freedom 38)
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks Greg. It's posts like yours and miatapaul that have kept me on the fence about this.

But it won't be for much longer....I just removed all the lines and will need to make a decision by the morning.
 

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Asleep at the wheel
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I expect to have to replace my lifelines soon. Thanks for asking all the good questions! Please keep us updated as to what you find, and what you do. I've seen articles on replacing the steel with synthetic, and I'm leaning in that direction, but like you I have concerns about my ability to put in a good splice (though the Dyneema I bought for making soft shackles seems easy to splice).
 
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