Lifeline systems and Accessories

Boat Hardware

Boat Accessories - Boat Hardware

LifeLines: The entire system of stanchions and lifelines is designed to keep the crew on the boat and provide a handhold the entire length of the deck.

safety mission: Lifelines and Accessories


As their safety mission is a critical one, building and maintaining a high-quality set of lifelines is an important task.

Lifeline systems are built into boats for safety. Generally, modern boats have bow and stern rails made of solid tubing, also called pulpits and pushpits, respectively. Between these two rails, sets of stanchions are erected along the sides of the boat with cable strung through the uprights.


With few exceptions, highly polished stainless steel is the material of choice for all lifeline components. Stainless steel is extremely strong and corrosion-resistant, both important traits in the marine environment. Marine-grade bronze is a close second choice.

Lifeline terminal types

Lifeline terminal types include: Eyes can be attached to bails on pulpits or stanchions with shackles.

Forks attach directly to any bail, but should have a toggle inserted if the mounting point does not allow a 360-degree swiveling motion.

Turnbuckles or other types of adjusters allow slack to be taken out of the finished cable. They should also be fitted with toggles if of the fixed-fork variety. It's always preferable if a turnbuckle or other adjusting mechanism has stainless steel threaded parts running on marine bronze, thus a turnbuckle with stainless ends and bronze body.

As lifelines are very seldom adjusted, this use of materials prevents galling, a type of stress corrosion that seizes all-stainless turnbuckles together permanently.
Pelican hooks often have a small amount of adjustment and allow a portion of the lifeline to be detached at a gate so that crew can pass from the deck of the boat to a dock or tender. There are numerous styles, the best of which have positive locking pins.

Gate eyes form the opening at a gate. There are two types: a single gate eye forms a large opening to attach a pelican hook and keeps the lifeline securely attached to the gate stanchion.

A double gate eye is used to form a joint, or swivel, on the other end of a gate. It allows the gate portion of the lifeline to swing free without detensioning the remainder of the lifeline.


Since few boaters own this type of equipment, most lifelines are built by professional riggers.

Most lifeline terminals are swaged onto the stainless steel cable with a large machine called a rotary swager, or with a smaller, manually operated roll swager.

There are, however, some terminals designated as “hand crimp’ that are installed onto the cable with a manual Nicopress tool. These can be installed by boatowners with average mechanical skills and the proper tool. Another method of building lifelines on the deck of the boat uses "Hubbell" (, "Sta-Loc" or other mechanical fittings.

Terminations by Sta-Loc (

These are easily attached to the cable with a few hand tools, but care must be taken that the internal cones are compatible with the cable construction; ie, 1x19 cones with 1x19 wire and 7x7 cones with 7x19 cable. Special tools are made for cutting lifeline cable and for stripping the vinyl coating at the ends.

Sta-Lok Terminals, not just sailboats BUT,cruise ships, buildings, bridges, and beyond.

Lifeline Accessories

Stanchion caps are vinyl boots that cover the tops of the stanchions, making a smooth transition for the lifeline. They protect against pinching human flesh between the stanchion hole and lifeline cable and beautify the assembly. Vinyl turnbuckle covers are also available.

Lifeline cushions and back rests are available in several styles ranging from round foam covers to large foam squares and curved, hard plastic supports. They generally are split to install over the upper lifeline cable, offering a comfortable place for the crew to lean in the cockpit.

The patented TAYLOR MADE of these extremely tough lifeline cushions puts them a step above the average backrest. Note: lifeline cushions will not rot in the sun.

Make Your Own Lifeline Cushions

Lifeline cushions slit foam insulation comes in all kinds of styles and is very anexpensive cover . The Sunbrella you got a perfect Raylan lifeline cushion and just taking some broth fabric in creating a straight edge with the soapstone pencil,then cut it with the CRA dads hot knife after determining the correct sizea form insulation.

Lifeline netting

Lifeline netting (Safety Netting: how to attach the Safety Netting) adds an additional measure of safety when children or small pets are onboard. Netting also keeps sails, fenders or other deck gear from falling under or between the lifelines.

Lifeline Cables

Although various types of cordage and wire cable are used for lifelines, the best material is 7x19 stainless steel wire rope with a vinyl covering. The underlying cable is flexible and very strong while the vinyl covering makes it friendly to your hands and skin and adds a handsome finish. Hollow vinyl tubing split along its length can also be used to cover the cable.

On smaller boats, or where weight or windage is a major consideration, the smallest size cable you should use must have a breaking strength over 2,000 pounds.

Lifeline Cable with an ultimate tensile strength of 3,000 pounds is preferred in all cases, especially on larger, offshore vessels.

Note: Inspect lifeline cables regularly and replace them if they show any kinks, broken strands, deep corrosion at the terminations or cracked vinyl coating.

Bases & Stanchions

Regardless of the size of the boat, stanchions should be tall enough to hold the upper lifeline at least 24 inches above the deck. While this height looks slightly odd on a very small boat, it is the size of the average crew that should determine the stanchion length. Lifelines too close to the deck can catch a crew behind the knee, actually helping to catapult him or her over the side.

The proper height is at least at mid-thigh to stop a crew member from stumbling over the top.

Stanchions where a break in the lifelines allows the crew on and off the boat, commonly called a gate, should have braces to prevent pressure on the lifelines from bending the whole stanchion set. These braces should terminate high on the stanchion, as near the upper lifeline as possible, and be as robust as the stanchion in material cross section.

Whenever possible, the stanchions should be made for two sets of lifelines. The lower cable helps to keep sails, children, pets and crewmembers working in a sitting position from slipping under the upper lifeline. While it's customary on many boats to make the lower lifeline out of a smaller or weaker material than the upper, this is a poor practice. In reality, the lower lifeline is often struck hard by crew that has fallen on deck and should be built to the same standards as the upper.

Stanchion bases should have large flanges firmly bolted through the deck of the boat with heavy-duty backup plates beneath.

The support braces should be beefy as they are often used to tie fenders and tenders onto powerboats, or to secure vangs and preventers on sailboats.

The stanchions should fit the bases snugly if they are two separate parts, or the welding should be smooth and even if they are a single piece.

Wireworker’s Kit For repairing lifelines

For making or repairing lifelines on both power or sail boats, and for standing or running rigging on sailboats and trawlers, tools for handling wire will be required. These parts are only recommended for boats traveling to more remote areas where parts and professional services may not be available. Some of these tools are large and subject to corrosion, so some thought must be given to their stowage.

Wire cutters, either small ones for working with lifeline cables up to 3/16-inch in diameter, or large ones for offshore sailboats. For large sailing vessels, these may need to be hydraulically actuated to cut through wire larger than 3/8 inch. A hacksaw will work but is slow in an emergency and leaves a ragged end on most wire.

Mechanical wire terminals, such as Sta-Lok, to make repairs to standing rigging on sailboats and lifelines on all boats. Be sure to obtain parts that are the correct style and wire size to fit your boat. Extra-long studs and wire-to-wire connectors make good sense for voyagers.

Nicopress® oval sleeves in sizes to fit every wire on the boat.

A Nicopress® tool ( for applying the sleeves. For wire 3/16 inch and below, a small hand tool tightened with a wrench is adequate. Larger wires will require a tool that looks like a large bolt cutter, choose one with multiple slots for different wire sizes.

Spare parts should include lengths of wire and lifeline cable, shackles and lifeline pelican hooks, turnbuckles and toggles, cotter pins, clevis pins or rings, and several rolls of rigging tape.

With these few tools, you should be able to make nearly any rigging repair, whether as a part of routine boat maintenance, making upgrades and when an emergency repair is needed to keep you on the water. A good book on rigging and splicing, and a little practice with pieces of rope, wire and cloth, will go a long way toward making you a more self-sufficient boater.

Wire and terminals - Learn more: Standing rigging and Wire, Swage vs. Mechanical Wire Terminals, The problem with fatigue and How to Changing Wire Size.