Would you trust your life to these?
Lifelines, the lines or cables that run around a boat’s perimeter, are one of the great nautical misnomers. We were coached early on to not trust our life to them by leaning heavily or hanging off them. They are important though and add to the security when moving about the boat. I can attest to this now as walking around on our cat these days while the deck is high above solid ground is a tiny bit disconcerting. For this reason I decided that a good thing to get done would be to reinstall the lifelines on the boat. We had removed them after we hauled the boat in the fall and have had them stored warm and dry over the winter in our apartment. When we pulled them out two days ago we were shocked (is shocked too strong of a word?) to see that a very large percentage of them had turned brown. Brown like the colour of someone’s teeth who had been smoking 3 packs a day for 35 years! Not cool.
I happened to be going by the chandlery that day and mentioned what I had found. The owner didn’t have a good explanation of why the discoloration had occurred but did say that the vinyl-coated stainless wire lifelines that we have are not the preferred type these days. One reason why is that apparently, stainless steel does not like to be removed from oxygen, which the vinyl coating does. Additionally, any corrosion or damage that does occur under the coating can’t easily be observed, making them less safe. Regardless, coated stainless wire is what we have, and at the present time, they’re looking pretty ugly.
So, what are our options?
1. Live with the ugliness. Um, no, not an option really.
2. Clean them, but with what?
3. Replace them, but with what?
We did a bit of digging and found a few suggestions on what to clean them with. Acetone, Vim and vinyl cleaner, with a LOT of elbow grease, were all recommended. I gave an abbreviated test with both the acetone and Vim. Results? Less than impressive. 🙁
As for replacing them, that could be big bucks, and not money we want to spend. If we were going to do it we wouldn’t replace them with the same material. The recommended options these days vary from uncoated stainless steel wire to one of the new high-tech lines (ropes) such as Spectra, Amsteel or Dynex Dux. The advantage of the former is the obvious durability of steel. The advantages of the latter are very high strength-to-weight ratio (important on a cat), relative ease of repair and although I haven’t checked this myself, I think they may even be cheaper. Disadvantages of synthetics are that they are more prone to UV degradation and chafe.
Rest assured that we will not be running out and replacing all of the lifelines on our boat today! As mentioned, that is not in the budget.
Two other options:
1. Have the vinyl coating replaced.
2. Have the coating removed and leave it off.
I found a mention on the web somewhere that you can have the vinyl coating replaced at West Marine for something like $1.50 for 6 feet. If that’s the case it would hardly even be worth trying to clean them I think. Number two above is just me thinking out loud. If uncoated stainless wire is the preferred system these days, how would that be any different than what we would have if we just carefully cut the (ugly) coating off the ones that we have now?