The science of staying on board
A subject that I have been giving a lot of thought to these days is jacklines. For those of you not immediately familiar with that term, jacklines are pieces of line, webbing or wire that typically run the length of the boat, and are secured to strong, fixed points. The theory is that when attached to one of these lines via your harness/tether, you can move about the boat safely, and hopefully, if you slip, or are hit by a large wave, they will prevent you from being lost overboard. The physics behind this is not quite that simple though.
Just yesterday I read an article that, following the 2011 death of a yacht skipper who was dragged to his death after falling overboard, expanded on the problems of what happens if the jacklines do not keep you on the deck. The title of the article, Is it safe to use a tether?, implies that there may be circumstances where not being tethered to the boat might be better. Personally, I can’t see it. The article is good though, and it covers a lot. It is well worth reviewing!
An image of a jackline setup that I found on the net. Would this keep you on board? Not likely!
Note that the tether in the image also appears to be made of non-stretch Dyneema, something that is very much debatable!
Our friend Drew, an experienced sailor and rock climber, has given this subject a fair amount of consideration. If you search his site you’ll come up with several posts dedicated to the topic. The guys at Attainable Adventure Cruising have also been posting some excellent research on the subject. You’ll need a membership to their site to read the articles though. For the record, that is something that I do believe is worthwhile if you have a few dollars to spend.
The challenge with all this is that while some of the findings from this research can easily be adopted, each boat is different, and thus requires some adaptation to create a workable and safe system.
What needs to be determined?
- Where should the jacklines be run?
- To what should they be attached?
- What material should the jacklines be made of?
- What material should the tethers be made of?
- How long should the tethers be?
- Should you use a dual ether system?
- If not a dual-tether system, should you have remote tethers placed at points on the deck?
- What type of connector on the tether (snap shackle, carabiner, etc.)?
- Should you use an integrated harness/PFD?
- How should you use the system to move about the boat safely?
I’m sure there are other points to consider too.
Do I have any answers to share yet? None whatsoever. Rest assured though that when I do come up with a solution, I’ll share it here.