Question: I haven’t given my lifelines much thought lately. Suggestions?

From the Rigger: How to inspect your lifelines…

We are always a bit surprised when we visit a boat and, although the rig is well maintained, the lifelines are clearly neglected. Lifelines are essential to the safety of your crew and may be all that stands between you and a trip overboard. Lifelines should be inspected regularly to ensure that they will withstand stress under sudden loads.

At Rigworks, Inc. we regularly inspect and replace lifelines. Let us walk you through a visual inspection…

First inspect your bow and stern pulpits and each of your stanchions, the upright posts through which your lifelines run. Stanchions are much more likely to buckle and fail than the lifelines themselves. The point where a stanchion is bolted to the deck is particularly susceptible to stress and damage. Visually check the deck for fractures, delamination, and signs of wear. Does each stanchion feel solid and adequately reinforced? Are there backing pads in the deck that evenly distribute the load?

Next inspect your various gate fittings. Do they need to be replaced? A gate fitting that pops open under load is useless. Please do NOT economize on lifeline hardware. Buy well-rated pelican hooks, gate eyes and adjusters, and make sure that they are properly locked before you leave the dock.

Finally, inspect the lifelines themselves. Look for rust, kinks, frays, bad joints and weak terminal fittings. If your lifelines have a vinyl coating, look for discoloration which may indicate underlying rust. Is the wire thick enough for the job at hand? Boat owners often scrimp to reduce weight and save money… bad idea!

When you have finished your inspection, ask yourself… “Would it be easier to replace these worn lifelines or recover a crew member from the ocean in heavy seas?”

In our next “Ask the Rigger” we will discuss your options for replacing worn lifelines, including new materials to consider and recent changes in the racing rules associated with lifelines. In the meantime, you are welcome to call us to request a professional inspection or discuss your personal situation. We always look forward to hearing from you!