Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to avoid drowning -- stay on the damn boat.

When we last left our intrepid sailors, they had come to the realization that planned improvements to boat safety should be completed earlier than anticipated.  The First Mate, watching the Captain struggle with stowing the mainsail on top of the pilot house, while Brigadoon plowed into five foot waves, was not a comfortable site.

The boat needed jack lines.  Jack lines ensure we have something to our safety line equipped PFDs to in heavy weather, or at night, when we are leaving the cockpit.  So, an initiative was started to get the supplies ordered, then design and install the jack lines for Brigadoon.

Three hundred feet of 1" diameter nylon climbing webbing, some stainless steel shackles, and a safety line later, we were ready to go.

This is the design for jack lines on Brigadoon. It has to take into account the fact that the deck is not expansive and level.  The pilot house is in the way, and the lines cannot lay flat on the deck.  They need to be easy to stow when not in use, and adjust when they are.  They should be able to be reached before you leave the cockpit.

The webbing has a 4000lb breaking strength and is commonly used for climbing.

The lines attach to two strong pad eyes on the ends of the traveler support.  The shackles are 4000+lb breaking strength stainless steel.

Here is more of a side view.  As you can see, the lines do not interfere with the mainsheet, nor do they rub on the top of the cabin house. These should prove useful when standing on the pilot house.

As you can see, you can just reach these while still standing in the cockpit.

As you can see, the lines then move forward to the mast where they are fed through the bottom of the vang bail.  This keeps the lines closer to the centerline and provides additional support at mid-span. The jack lines do not interfere with the operation or swing of the vang. Note the safety line attached to the port side jackline.

Here, the lines move forward, staying at the centerline of the boat.  As you can see, the safety line can be attached to one, or both, of the jacklines.

At the bow, the jacklines pass around either side of the stays' furler to a stainless steel shackle.  The lines are about mid-thigh on the foredeck, which makes stepping over them easy and helps them clear the #2 anchor locker.  I am not concerned about chafe as the lines pass alongside the stays'l fittings as they are not sharp.  I may, in the future, provide some additional anti-chafe at this point.

And finally, the adjustment line.  This is a temporary setup, utilizing an adjustable feed called a trucker's hitch.  It allows adjustment of the tension of the lines, along with easy removal.  The line terminates on a stainless shackle attached at the bowsprit.  The single line will work, but I expect to improve it as some in the future.

This design also allows me to stay tied in with the short 3' tether when working on the bow.

In summary, I think I have a good initial design.  It doesn't interfere with the operation of the rig, the hatches or the ground tackle.  It was inexpensive (less than $200.00 total).  I still have 200' of webbing left over, of which I will use for things like sail ties.  I was also able to make, from scratch, a safety harness for Kerry out of the webbing too; it's strong enough, even when knotted.

So now we have greatly reduced our chance of drowning at sea by ensuring we, in the words of another sailing friend, "Stay on the goddamn boat!"


  1. I like the general lay out of your jack lines, but I am concerned about how loose they appear as well as the added stretch which the line at the bow will add. Ideally jack lines keep you from going over the lifelines at all, not just drag you int water. You're setup might accomplish that and I don't see it, but you might want to check that out.

    Still overall they look good, especially how you have brought the lines inboard!


  2. Thanks for the comment. When the photos were taken they were a little slack. My line in front is adjustable to take up that slack. It's also halyard quality so it will stretch less than the lifelines themselves. I can actually get them pretty tight with this hitch.

    Thanks again for your feedback.