The lifelines on the boat when we purchased her were stainless steel, wrapped in white plastic, attached with C.S. Johnson hardware. I’ve never really understood the white plastic wrapping. Maybe its so the steel doesn’t get too hot for your hands in the warmer climates? Maybe its aesthetic? Really not sure… Either way, it doesn’t last very long and is quite dangerous. Stainless needs oxygen or it starts to corrode – additionally the white plastic stuff traps moisture and that aids in corrosion as well. All the while, you cant see any of this corrosion going on because its covered and then one day you grab onto that lifeline and it snaps without warning. No good. Here is an example of how ours looked:
Needless to say the lifelines were quickly put on the list for replacement. I really liked the idea of having bare wire with mechanical terminals at either end and figured we could re-use the norseman fittings that are currently on our stays. I thought this would be a good idea because the swage in the lifeline is one of the primary spots of weakness. The mechanical fitting also allows you to open up and inspect the insides every once in a while to make sure you are not getting serious corrosion that would lead to a terminal failure.
Thinking I was on to something I began sketching out the lengths and fittings needed. Not only was it going to be very expensive (around $1,600) but the lifelines were going to be way oversized and heavy. It didn’t really make sense.
After some research I found that Suncor makes a “Quick Attach” lifeline kit that is made up of mechanical terminals, very much like a norseman or sta-lok fitting for standing rigging. These are purpose made to be lifelines and they would require a much lighter wire diameter of 3/16.” They sell kits with and without gates, so we would need two kits with gates and two additional kits without gates. This would run us around $740.
One idea that I thought was pretty good was to take one of the old stays and use it for one run of the lifelines and this could act as a spare stay in case of emergency. If we did this I figured the whole thing would run us about $600. I found an excellent source for the 3/16″ 1X19 316 stainless rigging wire that I was going to use for the lifelines, Rigging Only. They had the wire in stock for less than $1/foot and so I purchased 70 ft.
But as you can see below, my mind kept turning and I kept sketching new ideas:
What we finally ended up with was the complete opposite of the first idea. Very light weight dyneema lifelines with C.S. Johnson Splice Line fittings. These are very cool 6061-T6 hard anodized aluminum fittings that accept 1/4″ dyneema which has the same strength as 1X19 wire but is about 1/7th the weight. Not only that but you can cut it away in an emergency and it is easily replaceable, so much so that you could do it while underweigh if that ever became necessary.
Since they are the same size as the old lifelines they will mate well with our existing C.S. Johnson turnbuckles so we save a bunch of money there and the whole project comes in at just over $500 if purchased at list price. However, if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you already know that we don’t buy things at list price! So that is why, after over a year of watching, I was very excited to see these bad boys go on sale a few weeks ago! We were able to save almost $75 during Defender.com’s recent annual sale 🙂
And here they are in all their glory:
And here is the parts list, should you ever want to do this yourself:
We wont be installing these for a while, but I already cannot wait!