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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Countdown from the Dock and La Paz... 5

Jim didn't mean to vanish the top deck - it simply happened when he leaned into the lifeline on the starboard side and it snapped. While trying to regain his balance, the varnish he was holding for the toe rails escaped from the small plastic yogurt container and hurled itself onto the deck in a messy goo-splatter. No serious damage done - no broken bones - and thankfully, no life lost. But had we been at sea in angry conditions...

We have known for some time now that our stainless cable plastic covered lifelines really needed replacing. There was too much rust sneaking out from under the white plastic cover. We were afraid to look at what was underneath. We talked to several cruisers who have tried using Spectra (Dyneema) line and they love it. Strong, rust free, UV resistant, cheaper than stainless... our interest was peaked.

After Jim's goo-fest, we moved  "REPLACE LIFELINES" from #20 on the list to #1. We ordered the material from Downwind Marine in San Diego (the least expensive place we found) and brought it  back to Mexico with us on one of the many trips we made this year to the USA. Jim ordered an extra 10' - in case there were measuring mistakes. That was so smart - there were definitely mistakes!! The stainless shackles we got for a good deal HERE.
Burying the core
We flipped a coin to see which one of us would get to wrestle the eye splices in double braid Spectra -
neither one of us had ever actually made an eyesplice before, but I have seen Doug, the old salty sailmaker, do them plenty of times. I was the winner.
Splicer's Fid Kit
So, I got myself a fid kit from Samson Ropes through the cheapest place I could find in a flash and set off to researching the wonderful world of splicing. YouTube is a blessing for us visual types! Long story short, my first one was ugly. Second one was quite good looking but the eye was smaller than I wanted. Third one I forgot to run through the holes in the stanchions before I spliced the end and so had to lop it off - but it had been quite perfect otherwise.

Lashing the finished product !
It was not a quick task. And it really didn't get much faster the better I became. It is hard work and it takes a lot of concentration. I had blisters on both hands and an unfamiliar ache resonated in my elbows to my wrists. I tried using gloves, but they just got in the way.

Interestingly enough, splicing, I discovered, peaks the interest of  Lookie-Loos who wander by daily - checking out the progress and clucking their approval. (Ladies! If you are single and want to catch the attention of some rascally sailors - I recommend splicing. Of course, it would be cheaper and easier to announce on the Net you have free beer.)

Total cost for Spectra line, thimbles and shackles came to $179 US.

Anyone who is considering replacing lifeline with Spectra should read this PDF - written in 2013 - and very comprehensive. It gives recommendations of the size of line for your boat length and types of recommended splices for your specific line.

And because I enjoy them so, here are some more of Jim's La Paz photos:
A beautiful day under a tree at Playa Bonanza - my favorite beach near La Paz

A Green Heron who visited us next door

Beach Balloon - or Puffer gone belly up?

An evening in Marina Don Jose


  1. We have been looking at replacing our lifelines as well. After reading about Jim's mishap with one snapping I am thinking it needs to be moved up our priority list as well. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and the knowledge you gained through the project.

  2. Jesse - as always, thank you! Nadejda - we SO needed to do this a long time ago and other "more important" projects seemed to nudge forward on the list - mainly because we had no idea what we were going to do or how to do it! Good luck with your quest - we are very, very happy with this Dyneema!!

  3. Great pictures and nice writing as always. You almost made putting in lifelines sound like fun, definitely more fun than sitting at a desk staring at a computer....

    A second on Downwind marine, just ordered an LED tricolor from them and had great service.

    Dan - SV Akupara

    1. Hi Dan and family! It really was fun learning something new - and something so many sailors admit to not knowing how to do. I was quite pleased with myself! ;) And you are right - Downwind staff is excellent - best service I've had in a long time. Miss you all!

  4. A surprise snap is really isn't any good, much less when it comes with goo! Happy it's all resolved. We put new SS lifelines on our first cruising boat, and have replaced the rusty SS with dyneema lifelines on Totem nearly six years ago. Love em! Gorgeous photos Meri.

    1. And I wrote your husband to get his advice on lock-stitch or no lock-stitch before the whip stitch. I lock-stitched each splice after his email!! Thank you so much for your feedback!

  5. A block and tackle with 4:1 purchase to tension the splice makes burying it much easier. No blisters.

    1. Thank you for the idea... I actually had 6:1 - courtesy of my salty sailmaker's advice. That milking up and down on that stiff, slippery Dyneema + my baby soft palms = a little toughening up. I discovered as I went along that brute strength didn't work so well with Spectra... it was a fine art of finessing and coaxing that core into the cover with my palms and fingers that really sped up the process!!