WHAT IS THE AVERAGE LIFESPAN OF SAILBOAT LIFELINES AND RIGGING?
Under optimal conditions the average lifespan is approximately 15 years. However, the lifespan of your sailboat rigging and lifelines can vary depending on the type of environment your boat is exposed to. For example: If your sailboat is within several miles of a power plant, the life span of your rigging can be reduced. Also, salt water sailboats have a shorter lifespan than a freshwater sailboat.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU INSPECT YOUR SAILBOAT LIFELINES AND RIGGING?
Here is a rule of thumb for you safety inspections:
- 0 – 5 years – inspect once a year
- 5-10 years – inspect twice a year
- 10+ years – inspect a minimum of twice a year or before each outing.
- 15+ years – it is highly recommended to replace rigging and lifelines.
HOW TO INSPECT STANDING RIGGING
- Rig Tension Safety Inspection – Feel for anything that is really loose. With your index and middle finger pull on each shroud at shoulder height. A sailboat rigger looks for large variables in tension for each shroud.
- Wire Safety Inspection – Look closely up and at the wire. Look for rust or any candy caning. Candy caning is a red rust stain on the rigging that follows the spiral pattern of the wire. This could be a sign of core rot. Look for heavy rust coming out between the strands. Look for broken strands up the wire. Run your hand down the wire and feel for any strands that may be coming unlaid.
- Swage Safety Inspection – Inspect where the wire goes into the swage. Look for broken strands at that point. Look for heavy rust on the swage itself. If there is rust, it needs to be cleaned off to inspect for cracks beneath the rust. (Some signs of cracks are heavy rust deposits) I prefer to use a Scotch Brite pad (the red type). Otherwise you can use 600 grit sandpaper. Do not use anything more abrasive than that as it could damage the swage fitting creating the potential for additional rust. Cracks are often hairline cracks so I recommend using a magnifying glass or glasses when inspecting.
- Turnbuckle Safety Inspection – On the turnbuckle you want to look for heavy corrosion and cracks (especially if you have closed body turnbuckles). Check that cotter pins or rings are in place and are in good condition. It is a best practice to periodically lube and turn your turnbuckles.
- Toggles & Tangs Safety Inspection – Check the toggles and/or tangs below the turnbuckles for the same corrosion and cracks as stated above. Some cracks may be hard to see because they could be located on the underside of the fitting. Be sure that the clevis pin is in good condition with a proper cotter pin or ring.
HOW TO INSPECT SAILBOAT LIFELINES LIKE A RIGGER
- Sailboat Fittings Safety Inspection – Similar to standing rigging, check for heavy rust and corrosion on all fittings; turnbuckles, toggles, pelican hooks, and gate eyes. If rust or corrosion is found, clean with Scotch Brite pad (red type). Look for broken strands on the wire and/or heavy corrosion.
- Lock Nuts Safety Inspection – Check that lock nuts are in place and tight
- Cotter Rings or Pins Safety Inspection – Check that cotter rings or pins are in place.
- Coated Lifelines Safety Inspection – Check the PVC coating for cracking, chaffing and heavy wear at stanchions.