PS Advisor: Harness Crotch Straps

Most offshore sailors agree that the safety harness is an essential piece of boating safety gear, but there are two camps concerning harness design. In the past Practical Sailor has come out on the side of crotch straps for safety harnesses. However, crotch straps do have their downside. Although some people swear by crotch straps in the sailing safety harnesses, many others find them so cumbersome that they interfere with onboard safety. PS tester and veteran racer Skip Allan (one of the victims in the recent harness test) aligns with the anti-crotch strap camp. His disdain for crotch straps, he says, is primarily due to the complexity of putting the whole thing on and adjusting it.

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During our testing a of a harness without a crotch strap, the harness did ride up on the victim, but there was no tendency for the wearer to slip out. If the waist strap is tighter than the wearers shoulder width, its not possible for him to slip out. This answer begs the question: What about people whose tummy is wider than their shoulders? Harness waist belts should be worn as taut as is comfortable. If that practice is followed, then crotch straps should not be needed.

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Sailboat Crotch Straps

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When you hoisted the “victims” out of the water with a halyard during your recent harness test (“Clipped In: Safety Harness Showdown

,” December 2006), was there any tendency of the victims to slip out of the harness? As part of the Crew Overboard Symposium in San Francisco Bay in August 2005, I was wondering what you found with regard to the benefit of crotch straps during your tests?

Capt. Henry E. Marx

Landfall Navigation

Although some people swear by crotch straps, many others do not like them.

Practical Sailor tester and veteran racer Skip Allan (one of the “victims” in the recent harness test) is one of the latter. His disdain for crotch straps, he says, is primarily due to the complexity of putting the whole thing on and adjusting it. When donning a harness is made more time-consuming, it is less likely that the harness will be used.

During the

Practical Sailor tests, none of the harnesses evaluated had crotch straps. Testers made sure the harnesses were properly adjusted to prevent any victim from slipping out.

While the harnesses did ride up on the victims, there was no tendency for the wearer to slip out. If the waist strap is tighter than the wearers shoulder width, its not possible for him to slip out. This answer begs the question: What about people whose tummy is wider than their shoulders? We assume the harness could become loose as it slips up, but we did not test this, so we cannot say whether the wearer would benefit from crotch straps.

Harness waist belts should be worn as taut as is comfortable. If that practice is followed, then crotch straps should not be needed.

Fuel Fumes

Recently, our Cal 40s bilge was inundated with a substantial amount of fuel due to a leaky fuel filter. Our bilge sump is 4 feet deep. The fuel has been painstakingly removed, but the odor remaining is unacceptable. Do you know of any reliable remedies?

Bob Peters
S/V Wings
, Cal 40

Seattle, Wash.

To answer your question, we picked the brain of diesel pro Gordon Torresen, president of diesel repair and maintenance center Torresen Marine. He had this to say: “The only real answer is time. Obviously the odor is from residual fuel evaporating from the bilge, a very slow process in the case of diesel. Using good bilge cleaners-Star brite Super Orange Bilge Cleaner was Practical Sailors favorite in our 2006 cleaner test-and allowing them enough time to cut the diesel will speed the process. This means filling the sump as much as possible, adding bilge cleaner, agitating for as long as possible, and draining it well. Using a solar-powered vent and leaving everything open as often as possible will help. Leave the floorboards out to allow air flow in the bilge. Take anything that was used during the filter change and cleanup off the boat. Even cleaning the tools used for the job is required if you live aboard.

It only takes a drop of diesel to make a long-lasting stink; but eventually, evaporation will win.”
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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