A Sailing Safety Alternative

By Mark Corke

Smart sailors know that in rough weather or at night it's wise to wear a tether or safety lanyard, especially when the crew has to leave the safety of the cockpit to reef the mainsail, change sails, or work on the exposed foredeck.

It's common to rig jacklines — lines strung along the deck from bow to stern that allow a harnessed crewmember to clip a tether on while still in the security of the cockpit and then move forward. But that very thing that protects you could be a hazard.

Many sailors like to use stainless-steel wire for jacklines, which, although undeniably strong, can roll underfoot, potentially throwing the sailor off balance.

Instead, try using 1-inch-wide nylon webbing. It's plenty strong enough, won't roll underfoot, and best of all won't make a noise or scratch your deck like stainless-steel wire can.

One drawback is durability from UV exposure. Plastimo, one manufacturer of nylon webbing jacklines, recommends replacing them after a cumulated period of two years of outdoor exposure.

Still, it's a simple idea worth considering. 

— Published: October 2017

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