Lifeline Netting

If you cotton to the idea, there's now colored netting to keep stuff on deck.


Since the time that cotton was first cultivated in ancient Mexico in 5700 B.C., netting came only in cotton’s natural color, which is a very nice white. Fabric for clothing was dyed. But for fish nets; gladiators’ combat nets; shopping satchels; traps to catch wild birds and tigers; tennis nets; hammocks; nets in cheap bars on which glass fishing floats and other junk are carelessly hung…you name it, nobody bothered to dye it. Besides, most dyes weaken the fibers, and neither circus aerialists nor cargo handlers cotton to that.

Cotton got wildly popular after Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793. (Did you know that the word “gin” is short for “engine”?)

When yachts came along, cotton netting soon came aboard either to keep sails from blowing off the bow during headsail changes (on racing boats) or to keep the tads from rolling off (on family cruising boats). The latter are occasionally identified as “baby boats.”

Netting like this is laced between the toerail and the lifeline, on boats with a single lifeline. It’s easiest done on boats with aluminum toerails. Boats equipped with double lifelines generally don’t need the netting.

All this preamble because Johnson Marine has introduced a new product. The aforementioned colored netting is not going to produce the slightest frisson. It comes in white, blue, yellow (might look great on a boat like a Cherubini ketch with bronze hardware), green (on a boat with lots of mildew); sand, and black (The Bomb, as they say these days, on any old C&C with black anodized hardware).

Johnson’s netting is made from high tenacity polypropylene (HTPP), 2″ x 2″ woven mesh, with lacing thread in a matching color. In stock form it’s 26″ high in 10, 20 or 40-foot lengths. (Custom sizes are available, but take a couple of weeks to order.)

So what’s the cost? About $6 a foot for the 10′ pieces, a bit less for the longer ones. This heavy, high-quality netting is almost twice as costly as ordinary nylon netting, which comes only in white, a very traditional yachting color.

But bearing in mind what the obscure Irish authoress, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, said in her 1878 novel Molly Brown: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” you may want to take a look at the colorful stuff in Johnson Marine’s catalog.


Contact – Johnson Marine, 860/873-8697,

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and his girlfriend Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. 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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here