Replacing Lifelines DIY--Stainless or Synthetic? [Master Thread]


Member I
I don't claim to be terribly handy, but I just got a quote from the local rigging shop of $670 to replace my aging lifelines (original equipment) on my 1986 Ericson 30+ and I'm wondering whether I should be attempting to do this work myself.

My thought is that if I can measure this job correctly and install the hardware, I ought to be able to do it for half the price.

Is this the kind of task that I can do with a minimum of pain or am I being naive here? Are there any tricks of the trade someone can share with me?

Thanks in advance,



Sustaining Partner

Should be pretty simple. Remove the old lifelines-taking as much of the harware OFF the boat (turnbuckles, hooks, etc.) as you can-bring them to a rigging shop and have them make up new ones-including the hardware (since one end is swaged onto the wire anyway). You should be able to install the new ones yourself.

Some of the fittings may have to come apart to get through the holes in the stanchions, but only as they are supposed to. Just do in reverse whatever you did to remove them. This should save you about half (that is my guess).

Go get 'em tiger!

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Life Line thoughts

I have also been thinking about this project, as ours are the original '88 ones and have suspicious rust stains around all the swage fittings. The old white vinyl covers look awful, as well.
There are several decisions to make. You can replace with: uncoated SS wire (fast becoming a standard around here), coated wire, or high-tech line.
Then there is the end fitting -- machine swage, hand swaged, or mechanical connection like a Sta Lok. And that's just for wire... I am not sure just what the riggers are using to terminate the high tech line.
Gate hardware has come a long way since the 80's, as well. The old pelican hook has updated newer engineering and they are both easier to close and less likely to pop open later.
I am leaning toward bare SS wire, and having a local rigging shop do the machine swaging for me. Plan B is to get a bid from a local rigger... and see if his lower parts cost can partly offset the cost of his labor. His knowledge is worth money, too, in any case.
Looking at the calendar, plenty enough years have passed by to need to rebed the stanchion bases as a part of this project. It might be nice to take all of them to a metal polisher for a buffing, since a more mirror-ish shine reduces surface rust.
While the bases are off, check the backing plates and the holes thru the deck for moisture intrusion. This is often where a "spongy" deck gets its grim start.

It might be wise to get a quote from these guys, as well, just to be sure that your first quote is in the ball park.

Let us know what you decide.

Loren in PDX
1988 Olson 34


Member III
High Tech Line for Lifelines

Has anyone out there tried using hightech line for lifelines? Any thoughts one way or another?


Member II
It's an easy job. I just did it on my 1984 E38 and all new lines and parts cost about $500 at a local rigger. Might have found it cheaper if I had taken the time to shop around a bit more. Just took the old lines to the rigger and he made the new ones. It probably didn't take more than an hour to remove the old ones and another hour to install the new ones. Go for it!
Captain Peter


Member I
Thanks. I was hoping the hardware would run a lot less (like half, as Seth suggested), but perhaps if I'm willing to do some "sweat equity", I can bring the cost below $500, which is my goal.


Member III
E/38 vs E/30+

Greetings Rob,

Seth's hardware might have cost more than you are expecting simply because of the difference in the lengths of the two vessels.

If you go the simple, uncovered stainless route, do you intend to cover them with anything for comfort's sake (e.g., padded "sponge" coverings)?



John Bouchard

Member II
New Lifelines - high tech line vs. wire....

Prior to launch last Spring, I removed the bow pulpit and all stanchions from Re-Quest, my 1971 E32. After re-installation and re-beddng, I ran out of time to get new lifelines made up, and I spent this season with some old 5/16 lines run through the holes in the stanchions. Not the best situation, but as the summer wore on, I just didn't get around to doing it right.

Recently, in planning several upgrades/projects over the winter, I've looked into buying the parts and trying to do-it-myself, in an effort to trim the cost.

To buy the high tech line (Amsteel and/or Spectra, to recall a couple) and the "special fittings" to splice the line onto, the cost seems to be running very close to the cost of wire and the fittings. Plus, the manufacturer recommends replacing the line after three years.

Both methods, per both West Marine catalog and some on-line searches, appear to be running about $600 to $700 - just for the parts!

By salvaging as many ss parts/fittings as I can from the original setup, and using vinyl coated wire, I can reduce my cost by about $100. This would force me to use the older style pelican hook gate closures, unfortunately. I would have to buy the tool (about $40+) for doing the swaged ends.

I can splice double braid, but in creating a Spectra lifeline system, the lengths must be fairly exact, and I'm not very good a splicer. So I think I may go with wire, either vinyled or not.

My next step is to get an estimate for a couple of riggers to see how far off the prices are from parts/supplies only. I don't really know, but maybe a rigger's expertise/knowledge plus bulk part purchasing can keep the cost fairly close to the cost of the materials if I went out and bought them!?

Has anyone else done this type of comparison, and found similar results? I guess I never dreamed the cost would be so high.

John B.


Sustaining Member
I don't think swaging your own life-lines is a good idea. The swage isn't nearly as strong as hydraulically-swaged fittings. The $50 DIY tool will work for making dinghy shrouds, but I don't think it's sufficient for lifelines that need to withstand a few thousand pounds of force.


Member III
FWIW, the sleeping with oars website talks of using uncoated SS wire and the dangers it can create - apparently a crew member sliced his hand pretty good when grabbing a lifeline and he strongly recommends to steer clear of uncoated SS wire unless you watch it like a hawk for loose strands.

I've gotta say, I've been barbed once or twice by a loose wires before and that was enough to make me steer clear of lifelines.


- Jerry

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
safe lifelines do not have meathooks

Regarding the risk of getting cut by a meathook on the SS lifelines....
Like any other rigging, if you find even one meathook, replace that shroud or lifeline *now*.
Since the chance of catastrophic failure is considered greater with the vinyl-coated lifelines (no way to inspect / corrosion working invisibly) you may find that insurance companies will start to follow the ORC rules and require you have uncoated lifeline wire....
Maybe not in the next year or two, but it will probably come to that.

We found a couple of our original wire-to-rope halyards had breaks (i.e. meathooks) and that was our wakeup call to replace 'em all.

Look at the lifelines like you would the rest of the standing rig -- if it's at or over 15 years in age, put on new wires and other termination fittings as appropriate. Why risk your family's safety?
I do not mean to come across as harshly doctrinaire, but safety really is "job one" as some big company once paid an ad agency to tell the public.

Loren in PDX

gareth harris

Sustaining Member
Has anyone considered coating the high tech line to keep the UV off? Would that make it last long enough to compare to the life of stainless steel?


Member II
I use Vectran

I replaced my life lines with vectran line (6mm v-100) a few years ago. So far there has been no fading of the colors. It is more difficult to get them tight and there is some creep so you will need to retighten. V-100 has a polyester (dacron) cover so UV degradiation of the base strength is not an issue. 6mm breaks at 4500 lbs so it is plenty strong. It has a good feel to the hand and because it has more streach than wire the crew is less likely to use it as a support.

I use knots rather than splices. Figure of 8's retain about 70% to 80%of the ropes strength plus or minus. The ease of tying to the right length offset the loss of strength for me.

I am at the point where I will need to retighten. I'll be adding some heat shrink tubing to hold the tails to the line this time around.

One other sailor that I know that uses Vectran makes his lines shorter than needed. He then uses a few lashings of 7/64" Dyneema (1400 lbs) to tighten the lifeline. The 4 or 6 lines are much stronger than the 6mm V100 and allow for easy adjustment.

On my boat I've put the lines to stamped shackles and the shackles then attaches to the stantion. I use rings and snap shackles for the gates.

If I think about it I will get some photos the next time I'm around if anyone is interested.

This was about 1/3 the cost of replacing with wire. So with even half the life I will be ahead....
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Member II
A few pics Before and after

Here are a few pics. the lashings are made of 3/32" T-100 and are covered with vinal tape.


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Member II
I got the 3/32" T-100 from west marine. Was on sale last week and may be now.

Thanks for the comments.


Member II
Been there, done that

Hi Rob,
This is what I did, I sent the upper row of life lines to West Marines rigging in California, there they reproduced the lines exactly to specs. Cost: approx. $350.

The bottow row I did myself, and it was simply a matter of buying the lines, getting a rigging kit, measuring and cutting and setting them up. Cost: approx. $100.

Keep your turnbuckles, bolts and nuts, throw away all of the old cotter pins. I bought extra line in case I screwed it up, better to have more line than you need than not enough.

Altogether it should take around an hour.

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
New life lines installed

Adding some possible closure, and/or a bit of renewal to this thread, I should report that our new (bare) SS wire lifelines are now installed, as of June '06.
Cost was a shade under $700. to have it professionaly done. All the turn buckles had to be replaced - some so frozen they had to be hack-sawed off. It was, as they say, "time." :p
We have a gate on each side of the cockpit and also between the two stern rails. Double life lines all around -- that's six pelican hooks total.

The new-technology C.Sherman Johnson pelican hooks were used, and they are better than awesome.
I have added three photos of one in place, from start to hook up, to partly hooked, to the snapped-shut appearance.
Unlike the horrible old tubular ones from the '80's, these are easily opened and closed with one hand.

The line option still looks very good, also, and the ones on Ethan's E-39 are quite foxy looking.
This thread was started with a DIY theme, and I admit to being tempted to go that route, but I believe that the machine swage is stronger.




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