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Discussion Starter #1
I would like to hear from anyone who has used the snap-on lifeline covers, offered by West Marine. I’m thinking of using them to cover my cracked and worn vinyl-covered lifelines, and I wonder how they hold up, over time.
 

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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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Don't do that! There is nothing wrong with the West Marine product, but if the vinyl cover is cracked and shows discoloration, you can be pretty sure that the wire inside is compromised and in need of replacement.
The current recommendation is to use uncovered wire for the life lines. It lasts longer and can be inspected.

Jeff
 

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I'd used them on a shroud of a previous boat and they were in good shape when I sold it 5 years later. Don't know how that would equate to lifeline use but they are fairly UV resistant.
Jeff beat me to it, I'm shopping for lifelines myself right now and was a little surprised most rigging suppliers still offer covered.
Also, the other day I noticed a guy on the next dock trying to remove the covers on his boat, he gave it up after seeing the disappointing result of a couple hours nasty work on the gates.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks both. Actually, I’m writing an article for a leading magazine, about the alternatives of replacing lifelines. Mine are cracked and chafed, but the wire is not damaged, so it’s a good place to experiment. I’ve worked on boats with bare wire, vinyl-covered wire and even rope, but never used the Davis Instruments snap on covers.
If cost was no object I would use 3/16” Dyneema, which is nice to grab and stronger than 3/16” wire, but it’s very costly and has to be eye spliced, which is a potential weak point.
The reason I like the snap-on cover is because it can be snapped-off as well, to inspect the wire as necessary, be it new or old. It also offers a thicker smooth material on which to hold.
Bare wire is horrible to grab with bare hands, but when my wires eventually needs replacing, it could be done with bare wire and the covers put back on. Also, if an individual cover gets chaffed it can easily be replaced.
By the way, I don’t work for David Instruments or West Marine.
As usual, it’s a boat compromise.
 

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I agree with JeffH. If the covering on your lifelines is already compromised they should be replaced. You have no way of knowing that the wire is ok underneath the plastic coating. Once water and salt penetrate the cover through the cracks and chaffe damage the corrosion begins. That is exactly why coated lifelines are not allowed in offshore racing. Snapping another layer of plastic on top to make it look pretty just encourages people to ignore a safety item that should be addressed. Even putting those covers on brand new uncoated lifelines is questionable. At least with coated lifelines the coating is sealed and keeps moisture out everywhere except the ends. Those snap on covers aren't sealed at all. They will trap salt and moisture in the wire from day one. Sure, you could rationalize it by saying you will remove it for inspection regularly, but you have to be honest with yourself about how often you are going to do that.

I have sailed on boats that have those covers on their shrouds to protect the sail, and have fount that anywhere there is a chaffe point, or a sail dragging across they have a habit of peeling off.

Yes, there are lots of compromises on boats, but is safety equipment the wisest place to make those compromises?

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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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Thanks both. Actually, I’m writing an article for a leading magazine, about the alternatives of replacing lifelines. Mine are cracked and chafed, but the wire is not damaged, so it’s a good place to experiment. I’ve worked on boats with bare wire, vinyl-covered wire and even rope, but never used the Davis Instruments snap on covers.
If cost was no object I would use 3/16” Dyneema, which is nice to grab and stronger than 3/16” wire, but it’s very costly and has to be eye spliced, which is a potential weak point.
The reason I like the snap-on cover is because it can be snapped-off as well, to inspect the wire as necessary, be it new or old. It also offers a thicker smooth material on which to hold.
Bare wire is horrible to grab with bare hands, but when my wires eventually needs replacing, it could be done with bare wire and the covers put back on. Also, if an individual cover gets chaffed it can easily be replaced.
By the way, I don’t work for David Instruments or West Marine.
As usual, it’s a boat compromise.
Actually Dyneema lifeline material is less expensive per foot than stainless steel lifeline material with the same strength rating, Dynema single-braid is scarily easy to splice. New Years weekend I replaced all of my spinnaker pole rigging (9 splices) while watching a 90 minute movie. Piece of cake. The hardware is around the same price as wire terminals, but dyneema required fewer fittings., So you should point that out in your article. I personally would like to use heat shrink where the lines pass through stanchions but I am not convinced about applying heat on dyneema.

Jeff.
 

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Mine are cracked and chafed, but the wire is not damaged,
I'm genuinely curious how you were able to inspect the wire beneath the vinyl coating. Crevice corrosion is a notable weakness with covered stainless steel. To be "stainless" it needs exposure to the air.

Bare wire is horrible to grab with bare hands
Many say this, but I've never really understood it. For starters, the line shouldn't be grabbed much. I still don't find it much different either way. The theory that the twisted strands might capture hairs on one's leg or arms makes intuitive sense. Although, that's never happened to me either. I replaced all my vinyl coated with bare SS.
 

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Being less that sure footed, I grab my lifelines often in non-emergency situations. That said, when I replaced my covered life lines with non-covered life lines, I used a slightly heavier gauge wire and it’s every bit as comfortable to grab as the covered ones were. If they develop barbs that bite, it’s probably time to replace them.
 

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I would like to hear from anyone who has used the snap-on lifeline covers, offered by West Marine. I’m thinking of using them to cover my cracked and worn vinyl-covered lifelines, and I wonder how they hold up, over time.
I was worried about my cracked lifelines. They were ugly and i was worried about their reliability. I peeled off the coating and carefully examined them. They were and are in good shape, and the stainless is easier on the eye.
 

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beach cat owners use the snap on cover a lot . we covered any wire that could come in contact with your skin. first 6' of shroud and the forestay bridle and jib lead wires. the covers are smooth and when you fall on one it does not tear off you skin like the bare wire does. bare wire is also hard on wet suits and other sailing gear. on shrouds they help keep the sails clean and less chafe and line slides on the covering with no chafe. they last about 5 years in the sun and when they get brittle they crack like the vinyl and come off in pieces. you need to keep them new because when they crack they become skin shredders. I have been using them since the 60's when the first came out. they are good when you fall on them but not so good when you grab them. I have never used them on life lines because some times when you grab them they will slide down the wire and you will go with it. even if you fill the entire life line with the covering sections it can come off when you grab it and need it the most. one section will go inside the next section and slide down the wire and strip the next section off.
 

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I'll second the Dyneema rec. It's got a better feel than wire. Nothing is easier to splice and Dyneema the same size as wire should have strength to spare anyway. And you don't have to go through the whole measure-and-have-someone-swage-it business, let alone the finding out after the fact that the length is wrong. I used 1/4" and the fittings that are made for splicing - no real difficulties. Colligo has some videos on line that were pretty helpful. See
and

I am curious as to Jeff's point about heat shrink to protect the Dyneema where it goes through stanchions - would that much heat be an issue? Chafe protection would be nice for peace of mind.
 

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I would like to hear from anyone who has used the snap-on lifeline covers, offered by West Marine. I’m thinking of using them to cover my cracked and worn vinyl-covered lifelines, and I wonder how they hold up, over time.
Oh no, he didn't say it! Prepare for incoming! o_O:cautious:;), Been better if I could have posted first, rats.
 

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I peeled off the coating and carefully examined them.
Your mostly likely just fine, if you saw absolutely no rust. Most cracked coating I've seen actually shows telltale orange on the vinyl itself. Mine certainly has. However, it's inside the twisted wire strands that is most O2 depleted and likely to suffer crevice corrosion. Some will see that orange sneaking out, clean it off and see the exterior strands look good, when the problem is not visible.
 

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I'll second the Dyneema rec. It's got a better feel than wire. Nothing is easier to splice and Dyneema the same size as wire should have strength to spare anyway. And you don't have to go through the whole measure-and-have-someone-swage-it business, let alone the finding out after the fact that the length is wrong. I used 1/4" and the fittings that are made for splicing - no real difficulties. Colligo has some videos on line that were pretty helpful. See
and

I am curious as to Jeff's point about heat shrink to protect the Dyneema where it goes through stanchions - would that much heat be an issue? Chafe protection would be nice for peace of mind.
Dyneema melts at 140°C which is not very hot. How hot is a heat gun? The question is, does heating dyneema even close to melting point compromise it's strength?

You would be better off sliding pieces of rope casing over the dyneema and whipping it in place to protect chaffe points.

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No doubt different folks have different results in different climes, but ours are 12 years old, out all year in Texas. No cracks, no stains or any other signs of wear or deterioration. I know it’s coming of course, and when it does I’ll replace. I prefer covered because the diameter is a little greater than uncovered, thus more comfortable.
 

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No doubt different folks have different results in different climes, but ours are 12 years old, out all year in Texas. No cracks, no stains or any other signs of wear or deterioration. I know it’s coming of course, and when it does I’ll replace. I prefer covered because the diameter is a little greater than uncovered, thus more comfortable.
When I replaced my lifelines with un coated wire I got larger diameter wire for the new lines, so it was probably the same diameter as the old coated ones. That was probably 10 years ago,. I don't own the boat any more but it is still in the club, and last I looked they still look perfect.

I don't get the whole "uncomfortable on the hands" argument, I have never noticed that, although when it is windy I am usually wearing gloves, and I don't fond myself clinging to the lifelines a lot. When racing we grab the shrouds a lot, and I have never found that particularly uncomfortable either. Maybe I just have tough hands!

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Dyneema melts at 140°C which is not very hot. How hot is a heat gun? The question is, does heating dyneema even close to melting point compromise it's strength?...
Interesting point. Most heat shrinks are 90-100C. If you could control the temperature of the gun (maybe a hair dryer instead) it sounds doable.

But splicing on a cover is not much more difficult.
 
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