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Hello,

After reading too many stories about a long (6') tether doing more hard than good on sailboats I decided that I needed something that will keep me on deck and not just attached to the boat.

This decision was followed immediately by sticker shock while looking for a commercial tether and then the realization that even that expensive tether was too long to keep me on my small 23' boat deck. 3 feet is too much.

So I came up with the rig shown in the attached photos. The harness is an inexpensive one and has crotch straps (not shown) that I can attach.

I tried to address the following issues. Please let me know if you think I am building something safe or something dangerous :)

1. 'Normal' carabiner-style spring clips can be twisted around and unexpectedly disengage from pad-eyes. The 'double action' clips are EXPENSIVE: I used a stainless steel clip with a locking gate that must be manually locked. As long as I remember to screw down the lock there is no way this is going to come off unexpectedly. Must less expensive.

2. Emergency quick release. I had a snap shackle from unused spinnaker rigging. I added a little lanyard to make the pull easier. I have tried supporting my weight from the tether and a good hard pull will release this shackle. I feel good about it holding when I need it and releasing when I need it. The big knot on the lanyard should be easy to find and pull by feel if I cannot see.

3. Three feet is too long and multiple lengths are needed.
- I have a lineman's loop connecting the snap shackle to the nylon line. This knot should take pull in all three directions without jamming and without working loose when not loaded.
- The carabiner is attached to the nylon line with a cow hitch. I think this is OK, but I am a little worried about the sharp bend right at the eye splice.
- Between these two attachments I have a loop formed using a rolling hitch. Since the lineman's loop is on the load-bearing end of the hitch I am able to adjust the whole thing down to just under two feet or extend it out to almost 3 feet. I might move the linemans loop closer to the rolling hitch so that I can pull the tether in VERY close for clipping on to the mast or other close work.

Since I will be using either a very short adjustment OR I will be attached to jacklines I feel alright with not having the shock absorbing properties of a 'real' tether. I think if I am held very tight at a hard point it will work more like a seat-belt and having it rigid is OK. If I am attached to the jack lines, they should provide enough 'give' as they tensions between the two hard points to avoid a really hard stop.

All in all I have to think this is better than nothing and better than a long tether.

Anyone want to talk me out of using this setup?

Scott.
 

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I like it...

on the boat I went most of the way around we used homemade tethers for much the same reasons...

they were cruder than yours btw...

the tethers had one leg loop and the other went over your torso...it was a bit awakward but prevented the whole squeeze one part of your body till death scenario which some tether do...especially the ones that squeeze your shoulders together.

one thing I would add is that next time around or whenever I go cruising again Ill make a tether with two attachment points with carabiners...in other words for cockpit use while sitting on watch one length...

while on deck and moving around a bit longer length...

on our last boat we found the ideal length around if I remember 4-5 feet...enough to stand while strapped to the jacklines or to have some mobility without snapping on and off all the time which is a nuissance

the reason commercial tethers are so long is simply the design of the boats and the size...

on sailboats most you need it close and tight

congrats on the work...looks good
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the response!

I would really like to know if you were ever really happy that you were clipped in. That is -- did you have a good fall where the thing kept you on deck without any serious injuries?

Scott.
 

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This thread includes a ton of great information backed up by testing on how to make tethers:
Rope/knot/splice load testing - Gear Anarchy - Sailing Anarchy Forums

Some of it is summarized on here:
Load testing

I don't like the caribeiner that you've used. It is going to be a lot of hassle to screw down the lock every time you clip in and out.

What are you using as your tether line? There is good information on the summary page on why to consider 7.7mm dynamic line (from climbing) and knots that work well in it.
 

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plenty of slips that got the tether taught..but not over the rails...so I guess I was lucky

but yeah for sure anytime offhsore we tethered in...100 percent of the time at night on watches

during the day we always had a lookout and were fishing or doing projects etc so we werent tethered in all the time...of course when the weather got rough

but that depends who your are cruising with or what the "rules" are for said boat

my comment on design was based on experiences I had the pleasure of hearing about while cruising

some tether would slip, some would squeeze you to death and some were simply so cumbersome it made being tethered a nuissance

by all means if you arent comfortable while walking around or doing stuff with the tether redesign it

a bad tether is worse than no tether in my opinion but opinions vary on this jajaja

cheers
 

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oh x2 on the carabiner comment...some carabinners(climbing ones) have spring loaded knobs so you can keep it pseudo attached however the preferred is the classic spring loaded lever one.

you have to be able to quick release a tether on the fly...its a must...so dont lock yourself in for sure...
 

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I'm a rock climber and I don't like the crazy expensive marine prices either for manufactured tethers. When sport climbing, I'll take FREE falls of up to 15'-20'. I certainly NEVER expect to do the same on a sailboat. So I completely trust my own home-made tethers of various lengths which use 1" webbing, locking D-biner, and snap shackle to keep me on the boat.

Your set up looks okay to me in this regard. The snap-shackle seems a bit small as does the pull lanyard - but maybe that's just the photo. I also agree with you about the cow hitch being a little squirrelly. And I don't like the extra line hanging around from the knot.

At the end of the day, the job of the thing is to hold you on the boat if you slip, get hit by a wave, etc. That doesn't take a lot of sophisticated technology really. I've been on the bow in some pretty sporty seas and was VERY happy to be clipped in. We ALWAYS clip on when off-shore.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks smackdaddy,

I will consider getting a bigger snap shackle. Do you have a suggestion for WLW on the shackle and how long the pull lanyand should be?

I tried to make it so that I could grab easily but not so long that it would get snagged on something and release unexpectedly.

I have always planned to trim and whip the tail coming off the hitch after I am 100% settled on the length.

I think I will put the eye splice directly in the carabiner and the whip the eye so it does not move too much. I think the bury on the splice is too big for the setup as it is with the cow hitch.

Thanks for the feedback!

Scott.
 

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I like it.

Interesting feature, the adjustable length. I wonder if that will prove more of a burden or an invaluable aspect of it.

I've recently gone to using dedicated tethers at "work stations". I have a short tether at the mast (about chest height) and another at the bow. In addition to the jacklines along the side of the boat and hard points in the cockpit.

for example if I need to get to the mast I clip into the jackline ... walk up to the mast and clip into the shorter mast tether when I get there. The mast tether keeps me very secure and close.
 

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Another idea is to go to a place like Northern Tools. They carry tethers and harnesses for people working outside in dangerous places. They don't have the word "marine" anywhere which makes them much cheaper. :D
 
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I've recently gone to using dedicated tethers at "work stations". I have a short tether at the mast (about chest height) and another at the bow. In addition to the jacklines along the side of the boat and hard points in the cockpit.

for example if I need to get to the mast I clip into the jackline ... walk up to the mast and clip into the shorter mast tether when I get there. The mast tether keeps me very secure and close.
For boats under 30-35 feet, that approach is the best way to go...

For a boat the size of the OP's, it's the ONLY way to go...;-)
 

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Discussion Starter #12
OK OK OK I get it!

I should have several tethers to move between and use in combination. I will look into setting that up.

That is a good idea.

Scott.
 

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Another idea is to go to a place like Northern Tools. They carry tethers and harnesses for people working outside in dangerous places. They don't have the word "marine" anywhere which makes them much cheaper. :D
The only tether listed at Northern Tools is for holding tools and is rated to 10lbs. I hope no one is using this to support their body weight on the boat.

They list other ones as lanyards, but I don't see any which can be released under load. That is a critical safety component for a tether used on the boat. You need to be able to get free if you are being pulled under water by the tether. They are also made with regular steel instead of stainless and likely won't last long in the marine environment.

It is good to look for alternatives, but make sure that you are making fair comparisons.
 

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Group,

They also don't use stainless.

As all the testing has shown, and way to many dead people have proven. The absolutely most critical part of a harness is actually to be able to undo it easily when you need to. This needs to be at your chest, and it needs to be foolproof.
 

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All the harnesses made for construction jobs (and wind turbines) have leg straps, yet harnesses for sailing do not. Are leg straps important? And how does that affect release ability?
Also, JohnE are you saying to have a tether at the mast and other work stations in addition to the one clipping you to the jack lines?
John
 

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the tethers we used had leg straps...I liked them...they were homemade and quite strong

in essence having a leg strap avoids any possibilty of the tether slippung, also the squeeze sydnrome

yes its a bit crotch invasive but hey

no issues for many many offshore miles
 

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On a small boat it's especially tricky because you're so close to the edge that even a short tether could put you over the side just from the stretch of your jackline. So dedicated short tethers at key points are a good thing. I only clip in once a year or so, when singlehanding. I sail in pretty protected flat water, so singlehanding is my only real need to clip in.

Like someone else mentioned, a short tether at chest height at the mast protects you at a critical location where you're likely to need to do work. And you don't need a long one there, so it's very safe. Remember that short tether gives you less distance to accelerate in a fall, so less likelihood of breaking a rib, back, or neck.

I also rig a short tether around the base of my steering pedestal that I clip into while steering.

The short tether consists of braided rope with a snap shackle at the end. I have a few of these of various sizes that I use:



I also run a jackline from the bow, past my mast, to the cockpit. I clip into that with a 3'-6' dual leg tether when I have to move between the other tethers. I use the shortest leg whenever possible, and crawl on the cabin top if it enables me using the shorter leg. It's a small boat so I never have to crawl far.

I once had to drop my mainsail while hobby-horsing in 4' square chop, and without the tether at the mast I would have been in very bad shape.

Going all the way to the bow presents its own challenges because it's so narrow. I've never had to do that when singlehanding thanks to a reliable furler. But if I did, I would clip my tether onto the jackline and ALSO clip on a spare jib halyard at standing height (with one of those snap shackles). That way, if I went over the side, the jib jalyard would keep me above the rubrail of the boat so I could get back on. Like I said, I've never had to do this, so I'll invite everyone here to tell me why that's a bad idea.
 

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The only tether listed at Northern Tools is for holding tools and is rated to 10lbs. I hope no one is using this to support their body weight on the boat.

They list other ones as lanyards, but I don't see any which can be released under load. That is a critical safety component for a tether used on the boat. You need to be able to get free if you are being pulled under water by the tether. They are also made with regular steel instead of stainless and likely won't last long in the marine environment.

It is good to look for alternatives, but make sure that you are making fair comparisons.
This one? Rated for 5000 pounds tensile strength? And, "meets or exceeds all OSHA regulations and ANSI standards"? What standards does yours meet? If it's like the one I have from West, probably none, right?

FallTech Shock Absorbing Lanyard, Model# A8259 | Lanyards| Northern Tool + Equipment

I'll give you a search hint. Look under "safety gear" not "tools".

And, a fair comparison, would be to be looking at harnesses for people, not tools. I think most people can tell the difference between those.

I didn't look in the catalog. I saw them at the store. They look a lot sturdier than my West Marine harness and tether. I'm sure falling off scaffolding puts as much shock load on a harness as falling into the water.

There are always alternatives. We used to use tethers we called "gunner's belts" ,when I used to fly a lot of helo operations, that looked like tow straps for cars. I never heard of one breaking. Rated is rated.

And, as far as getting free, I hope you don't sail without a sharp knife on you all of the time. If you don't do that, you need to start doing that. I carry a Kershaw assisted open model, with a clip on it.
 
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A few thoughts. I've done drop tests, climbed for 35 years, and looked into the engineering a good bit. A lot of good advise by other posters that I won't repeat.

1. Skip the larks head on the biners. That can slip up over the gate, forcing it open. It reduces the rated strength of the biner ~ 20%. You don't need it.

2. With lengths under 3' shock absorption comes mostly from shifting of the harness and body tissues. You should be fine. At 6' stretch is very important and over 6 feet it is vital. But ONLY when clipped to hard points; when on the jackline the absorption is there.

3. I hate those "marine" biners with the pointy little triangles in the gate. They cut fingers and snag on line. They are useless and I would return them. The Kong Tango ($19) is very nice and is going on many high end tethers. Also locking climbing aluminum biners hold up well if you grease the threads twice per season; very light and very appropriate to smaller boats. Cheap, because the production volume is perhaps 100x greater.



4. Leave enough space in the quick release shackle loop so that you can clip the unused leg there. If you clip it to your harness... no more quick release. Do NOT whip the eye. New tethers are adopting this feature or some related mechanism (a coming requirement).

5. Use knots. You're not looking at the loads where the difference matters.

You're smart going with short legs. The specific answers depend on the boat. I have a catamaran and use 2' x 8' legs (narrow side decks with chest-high jackline and wide beam forward).
 

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Also, JohnE are you saying to have a tether at the mast and other work stations in addition to the one clipping you to the jack lines?
John
I have a set of Amsteel jacklines rigged whenever I sail in the ocean, but I virtually never use them. I rely on a system of 5 different fixed tethers made from climbing rope, and using Wichard double-action hooks, instead...

2 are fixed at the base of the mast, include snubbers, just long enough to reach into the cockpit. These are clipped on when going forward or to the mast. A clest-high cleat at the mast allows them to be shortened up easily, and allow for very secure hands-free working at the mast...

A foredeck tether is secured at the base of the inner forestay, and is led back to the base of the mast. It allows movement all the way to the stem, or the ability to be double tethered when on the foredeck...

2 relatively short tethers are fixed in the cockpit. One (or more if there are additional crew in the cockpit) at the foot of the companionway that is clipped on when coming up from below, long enough to work the cockpit and winches.. Another one is stationed further aft, just long enough for me to reach the windwane to make a course adjustment...

Despite all this, I'm still pretty 'casual' about my use of tethers. I'm not a Tether or PFD Nazi, by any means :) I often go forward without clipping on, and as a rule only use them whenever the thought occurs to me that it might be a Good Idea :) I think staying on a boat has far more to to with your mindset and situational awareness anyway, than what sort of gear one uses...

I really think the fixed tether setup works best, at least on smaller boats. It has one drawback, however, that some may not like. It pretty much commits you to using a double-action hook at your harness, where some prefer to have a quick-release snap shackle, instead...

Here's where I'm probably in the minority, and differ from the more conventional approach. I would NEVER use a snap shackle at the inboard/harness end of my tether. As one who often sails singlehanded, or with a partner who happens to be a VERY sound sleeper, my priority is staying attached to the boat at all costs... In short, I'd rather be dragged to a death by drowning quickly yet remaining clipped onto the boat, rather than drowning hours after watching my boat sail out of sight :)
 
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