The Pros and Cons of Chest-high Jacklines


World sailing offers fairly explicit expectations regarding jackstays. And PS offer its own additional advice, including one that recommends jacklines ideally be installed so that a sailor who is clipped in can’t go over the side (see Jackline Installation Advice, November 2015). This is not always possible, especially on monohulls. In most cases, he chest-high lifeline on Mahina Tiare will keep above water the head of the person who is overboard.


Your tether won’t tangle your feet as you go forward, since it is attached above, not on deck

You have a line to grab if the boat suddenly lurches or falls off a wave

The clunking tether shackle along the deck won’t annoy crew members trying to sleep below or damage the boat.

It’s quick and easy to rig and remove.

The Aladdin cleat also makes an excellent place to secure flag halyards to


Beware of tying into a stern or bow pulpit. The stern pulpits on many cruising boats will fail under less than 1,200 pound loads of load, less than half the minimum advised for jackline padeyes (4,500 pounds). See “USNA Lifeline Test Reveals Weak Spots,”PS September 2012 for the full report.

If your upper shrouds are located quite a way inboard, you’ll likely have to go forward on the outside of the high lifeline, which can add risk in some scenarios.

When clipping in, your center of gravity is higher and you are less stable.

1. We use a truckers hitch to tension the lifeline where it attaches to the pushpit stanchions. Virtually all of the load on the lifelines is transferred to these pushpits. Past tests have shown that the railings on some boats are not as strong as they need to be to withstand the dynamic loads of a human bodies hurled against a lifeline (minimum 4,500 pounds), so you will want to make sure yours is up to the task. Backing plates deserve a close look (see How Big Does a Backing Plate Need to Be? (August 2016).

2. We use a simple clamp-on Aladdin cleat (aka flag cleat) to guide the lifeline past the shrouds.

3. CS Johnson marine makes a stainless steel guide especially designed for attaching to a shroud.

[Edited 06.20.2018 to reflect vulnerabilities of pulpits.]
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 writer-photographer 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.


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