View Full Version : SPECTRA for lifelines and HELLO

05-08-2003, 04:59 AM
We are fitting the stanchions now and had planned on using Spectra instead of wire rope (about 1/4"). Does anyone have first hand knowledge or experience with the suitability of using spectra in this application?
Thanks from Bernadette.
Also I would just like to say hello to everyone on the forum. We are very busy building so my time on the net is limited to that brief time of the day just after tea and before bed!!!!! While I may not post a reply to your posts...it's non-the-less good to be reading about all the worldwide boating activity and stories from afar!!!!

05-08-2003, 05:47 AM
I would ask about the expected lifetime of Spectra with ultraviolet being the possible problem.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
05-08-2003, 05:53 AM
Beware chafe! I would not use it for this purpose unless you are really confident that you have any chafe issues licked.

05-08-2003, 08:42 AM
The previous owner installed a spectra main halyard on my catamaran in an effort to save weight. If I ever meet him again, I'll smack him.

This stuff should NEVER be used in an application that will bring it in contact with human hands. It's impossible to get a decent grip on it when wet, and when it slips it cuts like a knife. It even cut me through my sailing glove once.

05-08-2003, 09:01 AM
On the other side, I will say that we use Spectra for the life lines of the Melges 24 that I sail on. It works pretty well for us. We do have two fat covers over the part where we sit (on a melges you spend lots of time hanging over the side) but I like the feel of it.

Again, on the Melges there is some slack built into the lifeline, and we use a bungy cord to give just a tiny bit of "give" when you lean against it. This might not be perfect for ocean going stuff though.

In 6 years we didn't have any problem with UV.

The other option is that you can buy some cheap cored line that you like the feel of, and pull out the old core and pull in the Spectra. It is really easy to do, and gives good feel, but no stretch. This is how we build all of our sheet lines.


Ian McColgin
05-08-2003, 09:12 AM
You might pop over to Brion Toss's site. I think the chafe issue is the biggest and it's conquerable.

I'm torn when I do my rebuild. I like the feel of a line - though I think I'd use good dacron rather than bother with spectra - but wire will have less windage, which gets noticable as the wind gets up over 45kt-50kt. For that reason, I may well stick to wire, despite the advantages of line from every other point of view.

Adam C
05-08-2003, 10:17 AM
I have spectra running backs on my boat. They are strong and look great, but I would never want to grab them to break a fall...they feel like they would cut my hands (rope burn).

05-08-2003, 10:26 AM
Practical Sailor (searchable and orderable through their website) has two recent issues addressing the Spectra positives and negatives with good charts and test data as to stretch (or lack thereof), breaking strength, etc.

A couple of the boats I'm involved with are using it in lieu of turn buckle fittings (is that the right term?) but using wire rope for the lifelines themselves.

05-08-2003, 12:12 PM
Kevlar might be a better substitute- the kevlar with a dacron cover, such as that sold by West Marine might overcome the objections to spectra.

05-08-2003, 12:53 PM
What's the reason for wanting a non stretch lifeline? I'd have supposed that some slight give would be a good thing.

05-08-2003, 04:14 PM
Both Kevlar and Spectra will need to be sheathed for this application, in my opinion (I use both fibers in kite lines, a bit smaller than the quarter inch you speak of.) Spectra is very slippery and almost impossible to knot in a knot that will hold under stress. Kevlar is stronger (by weight or volume) and not quite as slippery, but it cuts lots of things; kites with non-Kevlar lines get cut out of the sky with just a touch of line collision.

They're both great fibers, but they need different techniques for safe use.

John B
05-08-2003, 05:31 PM
Really easy to make splices with it though. I use it for my Gaff span.

Gary Bergman
05-09-2003, 09:37 AM
For a classic look, I use vectran without the sheath, looks like manila, absolutely no stretch, for running back stays. That said, if a rope look and feel is the idea, try roblon in 1/4.

05-09-2003, 06:20 PM
oh heck! now i know what newbies must feel like when they pose a construction question here!!! lots of good replies, some which scare and others which nuture!!!!! its made me think we will go back to using wire rope. we like it 'cause we know its not going to chafe and wont degrade with uv. we attach with a spring on one end so it has some 'give'. anyhow thanks for the help everyone.

05-09-2003, 11:34 PM
You did ask...
It seems to me that you got serious answers and that your question was taken seriously.
If it's nurture you were looking for, I think the serious answers qualify. If not, we could offer a group hug :D

[ 05-10-2003, 12:38 AM: Message edited by: TomRobb ]