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Safety – Guard Rails & Stanchions

Lifeline and guard wire safety from Berthon
However unsubstantial they may appear, you and your crew are glad of the guard rails and stanchions around the deck of your boat, they lend some security and safety as you venture forward.

Imagine a pitching foredeck at night with nothing to prevent you sliding off the deck. These posts and wires could save your life, so making sure they are adequate and in good condition is essential.

Ian Nicholson’s industry reference ‘The Boat Data Book’ specifies rail heights, stanchion spacing and wire sizes for various sizes of boat. For a sailing yacht up to 12m LOA he recommends wires of minimum 4mm diameter in 316 grade stainless steel 1×19 construction and a maximum stanchion spacing of 2.2m. Industry standard for stanchion height on most cruising yachts up to around 15m LOA is 610mm, although some more serious cruisers will have stanchions of 800 to 900 mm. In addition:

  • Guard wires that are PVC coated need to be inspected closely. Wires that are visible should have end fittings and tensioning methods at least as strong as the breaking load of the wire. Adjustment methods can include simple lashings, turnbuckles or integrated adjustable terminal forks.
  • Lashings should be replaced regularly as they become weakened by UV degradation. Turnbuckles and other adjustment devices should be regularly checked for correct operation. Guard wires should be tight enough so the do not sag between stanchions, but not so tight to cause wear spots as the pass through the stanchion.
  • Terminals should be secured fore and aft with clevis pins and split pins, which should be fully opened and either taped over or covered with a bead of silicone sealant to prevent them catching on sheets and sails. Split rings should not be used as they open too easily.
  • Wires should be regularly checked and when found to be damaged should be replaced. Stanchions should be securely fastened to the deck and if bent or damaged, they should be repaired or replaced.