The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

To Tether or Not to Tether

Rosario Passos

Counting Stars
Whitby 42 Ketch
December 30th, 2015

So… my husband and I were chatting about tether lines over a glass of eggnog, sometime before Christmas. I won’t bore you with the pro and con arguments, which got more creative as the eggnog disappeared from our glasses, but… I thought it would be a great idea to revive the video that Ken Gilstrom, our own Vancouver Chapter Education Watchkeeper, shared on the BCA Facebook page. You see, Ken has had many sailors ask them about their Crew Over Board (COB) prevention method on Voyageur 10.10. Since it is quite difficult to describe accurately Ken made this video, done at the dock because of the difficulty to film it properly while underway. We thought it was quite informative.

Then, a few days ago I ran into this article published in the Practical Boat Owner online magazine, about the safety of tether lines. So I thought it would be great to put these two together and hope for some discussion. I think we agree that tether lines are important, and we do have them on out boat, but they have to be set up right for your own boat and they have to be the right length to keep you out of the water should you fall in.

Any other thoughts?

Cover image attribution:  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license, modified for Currents. The original uploader was Mierlo at English WikipediaTransferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.


  1. Anders Lonnqvist says:

    Good start Rosario, after 50,000 +Nm. We are always attached to the boat when under way on open water. As I sometimes is the only one who can reliably turn the boat around and perform a retrieval of MOB, I personally always click on when on deck, and demand that the crew do the same. Make sure the that your path from aft to bow is uninterrupted by any lines or obstacles. If in the middle of a stormy night you have to run up to the bow to fix a problem and the rest of the crew is sleeping, while you are unblocking your teeter you may accidentally go over board. WHO WILL KNOW AND PICK YOU UP? How far can you swim? In what direction?

    1. Anders, I agree with you, and especially I think that we have to pay close attention to the set up of the tether lines on the boat. I think it is very wise when you say: “Make sure the that your path from aft to bow is uninterrupted by any lines or obstacles” but I also think that one has to consider the length of the lines to make sure that if one falls overboard one is not dragged on the water along the boat.

  2. Mark Evans says:

    I like that you have showed two lanyards however the length of the lanyard should be short enough to prevent the person from going over in the first place. Much depends on the placement of the Jack lines and hiw high and how strong are the stations.
    Crawling on hands and knees may be the only safe way to ensure that you do not go ever.

    1. Totally Mark, the big take home for me was the length of the lanyard… and also the consideration of what side of the boat will you be going on – windward or leeward – because the freeboard will be different. This means that a great deal of thinking and planning needs to go on when setting up the safety system on a boat in preparation for a passage.

  3. Walt Drechsler says:

    Very interesting discussion topic. I watched Ken’s video and we attended his “open boat” last month. Honestly had never given much thought to jack lines and clipping in with the exception of a few longer races. The way Ken’s boat was thought out and pre planned for keeping the crew on board in addition to the examples given in the link you provided all make sense. I really like the way Ken has his boat set up with the tethers already in place. We will be looking to set ours up similar when we head offshore.

    1. Walt, me too…. we will make sure we set up our boat similar to Ken’s, with the tethers in place beforehand, but I think we also need to look at the length of the lines that connect us to the boat to ensure that id we fall overboard we are not swept underwater. It was a big eye opener for me.

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