Editorial January 2007 Issue

Of Charts, Seacocks,and Safety Tethers

Spring-Loaded Jackline Clip and the Harness Snap Shackle
In this photo, only the Gibb (red) spring-loaded jackline clip and the harness snap shackle (open) meet PS testersí standards.
Hereís a frightening question to ponder on your next ocean passage: What would be the worst product for a marine manufacturer to botch? Sadly, a few possible
answers require no imagination.

A chart? Having jousted with several fantom reefs, Iíve no great confidence in any chart, but the conversion to digital is swiftly eroding what little faith I have. While Practical Sailor doesnít presume cartographers can perfectly portray Planet Ocean, it is fair to expect that the switch to digital wonít introduce new errors. Yet channel markers, hazards, and shorelines that are well-charted on printed government charts change names, move, or disappear altogether as raster charts are transformed into vector representations.

Bottom Line: Stay tuned to ensure that you have the latest digital charts. And donít chuck those printed charts yet.

A seacock? For years, surveyors, service experts, and this magazine have ranted about cheap ball valves that many builders continue to use instead of high-quality, marine-grade seacocks with mounting flanges. At least one major boatbuilder is now paying for this. Hunter announced late last year that it was recalling dozens of boats with potentially defective ball valves. If youíre worried youíre among the many owners of boats with this problem, check out "Notifications" link at the Hunter website,

Bottom Line: Check and inspect your through-hulls frequently, and service them with each haulout. Replace any gate valves, and upgrade to proper flanged seacocks when time comes to replace existing valves below the waterline.

A safety tether? For a real eye-opener, check out our report on safety tethers starting on page 26. Some retailers, West Marine among them, continue to stock tethers with non-locking jackline clips that, in our opinion, donít belong on a sailboat. One explanation weíve gotten: Some people want a "less expensive tether." Yeah, and a skydiver would rather save a few bucks on a parachute than land with his spinal column intact.

So, whatís worse than a tether clip that might open unexpectedly? How about a childís tether that might break?

Our testers put a store-bought Jim-Buoy childís tether through a simple challenge: Could it sustain a 35-pound weight dropped from 3 feet? The cheap polypropylene leash snapped twang! like a street musicianís guitar string on New Yearís Eve. When notified of the results of our test, Jim-Buoy said it was upgrading the rope used in the childís tether to the braided nylon line that it employs in the adult harness/tether.

Bottom Line: Safety gear is not the best place to cut expenses.

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