Check for Abrasion Before Switching to Fiber

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chafe points

To see how chafe points can develop on stanchions, we ran standard steel cable through our test stanchion holes for an hour. As expected, the sawing action wore a rough-edged groove, but several other things became apparent.

Surprisingly, the steel wire wore more severely than Amsteel. At the end of one hour, about 15 percent of the wire strands had failed, and most of these failures were invisible until the cable was flexed. Most of the failures were deep inside the cable, clearly a result of flex and fatigue and not wear.

Hunting around a local marina, we found many examples of lifelines with broken strands inside the stanchion holes or other places where the lifeline saw more flexing. When we stripped back the covers on covered lifelines, we found the same pattern of strand failure at the stanchion holes, even in places where the cover itself was still intact.

The bare wire formed a sharp burr on the inside of the test stanchion, equivalent to a freshly drilled and unfinished hole. We ran Amsteel over the freshly burred hole, and the wear was significant, though not as severe as with the wire.

Stanchion holes should always be polished before switching to fiber lifelines, especially if bare cable has been used. Burrs on the lip should be rounded with a countersink or a Dremel tool fitted with a fine grindstone. Next, both the lip and interior should be polished with fine emery paper, down to 600-grit.

Any groove in the stanchion hole usually indicates sharp edges on the inside of the stanchion that will also require careful polishing. After the stanchion hole had been polished, we found that Amsteel wore better than steel cable and actually polished the steel even smoother.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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