Boat Systems Living Aboard a Boat

J is for Jacklines (and other safety equipment we wouldn’t be without)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA

During the month of April, we're participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge where every day (excluding Sundays) we'll be posting to the blog . . . alphabetically. The overall theme we've chosen to tie all the entries together is living aboard a boat and cruising – things we've learned along the way: our thoughts, reflections, and tips for those just starting out or who are interested in this lifestyle.

If you’re not a sailor, you’re probably asking yourself: What are jacklines, and why do I care? Well, you probably don’t. But if you own a boat, then you know that recreational vessels are required to carry a minimum of safety equipment aboard at all time. Jacklines aren’t actually on the U.S. Coast Guard’s list, but we carry them anyway. That leaves only one question: What are jacklines? They’re lines that are secured from a padeye or cleat and run from the bow of the boat to the stern. When under way, a crewmember can attach a tether, which is connected to a safety harness they’re wearing, and move about the deck during offshore conditions or heavy weather more safely. Ours are made out of high-strength yellow nylon webbing so they can’t be easily confused with other lines on the boat. 

Here’s a list of other safety equipment we wouldn’t be without (a lot of which came with the boat when we bought her). In keeping with the A to Z theme, I’ve listed them alphabetically:

  • Air horns for signally other vessels in reduced visibility
  • AIS receiver
  • Alarm for the propane gas system
  • Backup GPS
  • Backup chart plotter
  • Bilge pumps (automatic and manual)
  • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Ditchbag
  • Drogue
  • EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon)
  • Emergency nav lights
  • Emergency steering gear
  • Fire blanket (galley)
  • Fire detectors
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Flares
  • Hacksaw and blades (to cut the standing rigging if dismasted)
  • Hand holds for walking around the boat while under way
  • Harnesses (on PFDs)
  • Jacklines
  • Jonbuoy
  • Liferaft (four man)
  • Lifesling
  • Medical kit
  • Paper charts
  • Para-anchor
  • Power tools (angle grinder for cutting standing rigging and one of our drills powers a high-volume pump)
  • PFDs (personal floatation device/lifejackets)
  • Radar
  • Radar reflector
  • Single side band radio (SSB)
  • Spare anchor and rode
  • Spares, spares and more spares
  • Spotlight (3 million candle power)
  • Storm anchor and rode
  • Storm sails (tri and jib)
  • Tethers
  • VHF radios (2 mounted, 1 handheld, 1 in the ditchbag)
  • Windvane (back up for the autopilot – friends of ours just hand-steered to the Marquises after losing "Geeves" after a few days out)
  • Wooden bungs attached to the seacocks (to plug holes)
How about you? What safety equipment do you carry aboard? Join the conversation below or leave a comment on our Facebook page and, while you’re there, give us a ‘Like’!

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  1. That's a great list! I see a couple of items on it that I still need to get. OK, well more than a couple actually. We are not yet sure how to deploy our jacklines on this boat. The center cockpit arrangement on our boat makes it impractical to have one line that runs from the back deck to the foredeck. We may have to run two lines, meaning we would have to unclip and clip on again. It's one of the many things we plan to work out once we are on board again.

  2. We run our lines inside the stays to keep further away from the edge of the deck, so we don't have to unclip unless switching to the opposite side of the boat (something we do inside the cockpit). David has a double tether so he can clip on with the spare before unclipping the one he's using. For some reason, my tether only has one clip. Hmmmm . . . I wonder why that is.

  3. Fascinating post about jacklines, really enjoying your whole series of the A to Z, came for a quick visit and ended up staying :)

    Mars xx
    @TrollbeadBlog from
    Curling Stones for Lego People

    1. I'm so glad to hear that. Thanks for joining us!


  4. I love the urination station jackline! Hmm...perhaps we need one of those :-)

    Cheers - Ellen

    1. That was the bit that got me too! What about a gust of wind in the wrong direction?! Yikes!

  5. We used sailing ropes/lines as our jack lines and made it a healthy habit to always install them before a passage. For shorter trips close to shore, we didn't use them. As important are the life jackets, tethers and harnesses and, of course, the flares, life sling, Epirb, VHF radio and our sat phone.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary