Surveyor’s Notebook: Respect your Lifelines

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Corroded, improper lifeline fittings like this one pose a serious danger to the crew

Corroded, improper lifeline fittings like this one pose a serious danger to the crew

Considering lifelines play such a critical role in the safety of the crew, I’m constantly amazed at the apparent disregard many boat-owners have for them. Nothing lasts forever, especially lifelines, which should be replaced as soon as anything more than surface corrosion appears. Often, even when standing rigging may be replaced, lifelines are left to soldier on for many years past their expiration date. Surveyors, as a rule, like to see plain wire, as it’s easier to judge the condition. Plastic-coated may be nicer to lean against when sailing, but hidden dangers can sometimes lurk beneath. Specifically, crevice corrosion can go unnoticed, and the wire could fail just when it’s needed the most.

The example shown here is especially bad. The wire is uncoated, which is good, but the toggle was too short and a cheap hardware store spring clip has been used to extend the lifeline to reach the pushpit. Additionally, the ring circlip has certainly seen better days and appears ready to gash a hand or tear an expensive sailing jacket.

Other sections of the guardrail on this particular boat were equally bad—needless to say I recommended that all the guard wires and associated fittings be replaced.

Lifelong boat addict and marine surveyor Mark Corke can be reached at



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