OCC Forums

The importance of tethers


By DariaBlackwell - 9 Jan 2020

A report of a rescue of a sailor from a vessel that was rolled by a rogue wave off A Coruna in the Bay of Biscay underscores the importance of using a tether.  Without the tether, the lone sailor would most certainly have been washed away from his boat. Instead, he was pulled back aboard when the boat righted itself, enabling him to deploy his EPIRB and liferaft.

OCC member Bill Hatfield, currently en route to completing a solo nonstop circumnavigation also reported being washed overboard but was able to climb back aboard at the stern of his boat L'eau Commotion by hand-over-handing the length of the boat. He put on his safety harness afterwards!

We had a robust thread on the proper deployment of jacklines here a few years back. And there's a safety notice about hooks on tethers, but I think it would be useful to have a discussion about the best practices for use of tethers and jacklines at sea. Do you have a standard practice aboard your vessel?
By Dick - 10 Jan 2020

Hi Daria,
Best practices in this area is a huge topic and quite boat specific. It has also, to my mind, been well covered elsewhere. I refer to the series of essays in the publication you mentioned, Practical Sailor, over the last couple of years and, perhaps even more thoroughly covered, in the Attainable Adventures Cruising web site. The Forum might best serve by fine-tuning one’s plans and allowing for questions.
Both publications mentioned have a modest fee attached and both are more than worth the expense: the AAC site has the added benefit of being run by one of our members and has another member as one of AAC’s principle journalists.
I will mention some casual observations I have made over the years as more of a “what not to do” and in “fine tuning”.
The first are those boats that leave their jacklines out all the time and let them get UV damaged (if you can see slight fraying on the edges, it is past time to change and often there is damage that does not show itself). In addition, the jack lines are often lashed on which makes for another area where UV can compromise the integrity of the system. Those using shackles need to have them moused. Leaving jacklines out is not a problem if they are replaced regularly, but this is often not the case. I see this on charter boats pretty regularly.
The other suggestion is to figure out how to get your jacklines as amidships as possible. I note that every boat is different, but those jacklines that go from bow to stern along the side decks would probably improve the safety of crew by re-configuring. Long runs allow for lots of stretch and the possibility of dragging the length of the boat among other issues. The above articles will help in this regard.
Crews live primarily in the cockpit offshore. Amidships fixed anchoring points for one’s tether will allow only a short fall and, if overboard, will keep you close to the ship and not get dragged behind the boat deep in the water. The latter scenario is more likely to happen if one clips to the fore and aft jackline on the side decks outboard of the cockpit. This amidships anchor point should also allow you to reach and stand on the companionway steps to clip and un-clip from a safe location.
Finally, clipping and un-clipping is a time of danger. Extra tethers can be purchased and left attached at strategic points. This will allow one to clip on to a second tether before unclipping, thereby never having a moment un-clipped. In everyday life, this may not be important, but when things are boisterous and the foredeck is regularly awash, it can be re-assuring.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy