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The Safety Tether Question - What Do YOU Think?

By Sailingguide

April's two sailing disasters in California have gotten people talking about safety issues, including when and whether to tie oneself to the boat using a sailing harness (built into offshore inflatable PFDs) and tether. But this seems far from a simple, one-size-fits-all safety step. While one of the survivors of the Farallones disaster argues that all crew members should always be tethered in, other sailors who have escaped an overturned boat or other circumstances where tethering might have been problematic have argued against routine tethering. Recently, a blog posting in Yachting World, picked up by the Scuttlebutt Europe newsletter, had the provocative title, "How Your Harness Could Kill You." The piece begins, "Your lifejacket and harness could kill you. That's the shocking fact." It then goes on to comment on the Marine Accident Investigation Report recently released about a fatality in the UK that resulted when a sailor slipped under the lifelines and dangled from his tether in the water, towed several minutes at speed, drowning before crew could raise him up.

I happen to have read that report and had a rather different opinion from the Yachting World writer. First, it's obvious that in that sailor's position - lying on the foredeck reaching for a snagged sail - he should have been on a short, not long tether. (I use one of that type that has both a short and long section you choose for the specific situation.) Second, the report showed the type of tether used - and it did not have a quick-release shackle at the harness end (like the one shown here) that allows a sailor to get loose quickly even when the tether is under tension. What am I missing here? I fail to see how the proper use of the best equipment can be faulted.  What's your take on this issue? Please share your comments about this question that should be of interest to all sailors.


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