Stanchions Safety

By Mark Corke

Nothing lasts forever, and that includes stanchion guard wires. What sailors should know when it comes to preventive maintenance.

Safety wire

Many sailors have deck-edge stanchions interlaced with plastic coated guard wire on their boats. When new, these wires look perfect, the white plastic coated sheathing enhancing the look of almost any boat. But there could be danger lurking, literally, below the surface.

That's because, to attach the turnbuckles required for tensioning and adjustment at the ends of the wire, the plastic has to be stripped back exposing the wire core. This works perfectly when new, but over time, water will find its way under the core, where time and an absence of oxygen sets up crevice corrosion, slowly eating away the wire. This corrosion often goes unseen and unnoticed until, one day, the guard wire is called on to prevent someone going over the side. The weight of a person being thrown against the wire is sufficient to cause the wire to fail, and the crewmember ends up in the drink.

Guard wires don't last forever, and they should be periodically inspected. A little rust from weeping from under the ends of the plastic coating may be OK, but if extensive, or the plastic coating is bubbled, a sure indication of extensive corrosion beneath, they should be replaced without delay. 

— Published: December 2017


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