Where Do You Put The Safety Line On A Boat?

Installing the safety line properly is key to its effectiveness. Generally, you’ll want to run the safety line from stern cleats to the bow’s cleats on both the port and starboard sides of the keel line. 

However, this placement might not be ideal in all instances, as it can leave a crewmember hanging by the harness lanyard if they do fall overboard. To further enhance your boating safety, consider incorporating man overboard location alert systems into your safety measures.

Positioning the Safety Line

When positioning a safety line on your boat, consider the most important aspect: where to attach it. The primary purpose of a safety line is to keep you secure and on board, so you must choose strong and stable attachment points.

Start by attaching jackstays, usually mounted along the boat’s centerline. This position ensures that, if you slip, the line will keep you on the boat rather than letting you fall over the sides. In rough weather conditions, having these jackstays securely fastened is a relief.

It’s also wise to include attachment points in the cockpit area. Install them low down for greater safety. When adding these fittings, use a plywood backer to reinforce the attachment point, ensuring it holds under pressure without damaging your boat’s structure.

A safety line is also called a jackline. Essentially, it acts like a tether that connects your safety harness to a strong point on the boat. Attach the harness point above the lowest part of your sternum (breast bone) to ensure maximum support. If your harness has a long tether, consider adding a mid-point hook to enhance stability while moving around the boat.

Knowing your boat and where you’ll spend most of your time will guide you toward the best positioning of your safety lines.

Safety Line in Different Weather Conditions

In different weather conditions, the placement and usage of a safety line vary. Here, we’ll discuss how to best use a safety line in various weather scenarios.

Calm weather: During calm weather, it’s crucial to have your safety line readily available. Attach it to a secure point on your boat, typically near the helm or cockpit area. This will allow you easy access in case of an emergency, such as someone accidentally falling overboard or a sudden change in weather.

Moderate conditions: As the weather becomes more challenging, attach your safety line to a secure point that lets you move around the boat comfortably. The goal is to maintain safety while allowing for mobility and attending to various tasks on your boat, such as trimming sails or helping other crew.

The Cruising Club of America recommends wearing harnesses and lifejackets when:

  • Reefed
  • Navigating in rough water
  • Sailing on cold water
  • Traveling at night
  • Operating in limited visibility or single-handedly

Rough weather: Under harsh conditions, ensuring the safety line is securely attached to both yourself and the boat is vital. Remember that monitoring weather forecasts is essential in these situations to avoid potentially dangerous waves and strong winds. If possible, avoid venturing out into rough weather that may exceed your boating skills or your vessel’s capabilities.

When assessing safety requirements, ensure your boat is equipped with proper personal floatation devices (PFDs). For boats longer than 16 feet, you will need a Type I, II, III, or V PFD and a Type IV throwable floatation device. Boats under 16 feet must have at least one Type I, II, III, or V PFD for every person on board.

Safety Line and Other Safety Equipment

By now, you know that a safety line should be attached to a strong attachment point on the boat.

So, select an appropriate sailing harness because guardrails are not built to withstand the loads a safety harness imposes, and consider equipping yourself with a reliable tether for offshore sailing when using a safety harness.

Wearable personal flotation devices (PFDs), also known as life jackets, are another indispensable piece of safety equipment on a boat.

It is mandatory to have an accessible, wearable PFD for each person on board. Children under the age of 12 are required to wear their PFDs at all times while on a moving vessel.

Sea anchors are ideal for rough weather and go hand in hand with safety lines, harnesses, and tethers. A good quality drudge will stop your boat broad siding to the wind in stormy sea conditions.

A VHF radio should also be on board, enabling communication with the Coast Guard and other nearby vessels.

Safety equipment should also include fire extinguishers, flares, and other beacons for signaling distress. These items can come in handy in emergencies or accidents, helping you to get assistance from the Coast Guard or nearby boaters.

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Sailing Savvy. I spent a decade working as a professional mariner and currently, I mix those experiences with digital publishing. Welcome, and I hope that we can be the hub you need for safe passage.