We recently had a query from one of our readers asking about whether or not there is a minimum height requirement for lifelines on boats. It seems that after touring some of the Fall boat shows, the reader felt that a lot of the boats he inspected had lifelines that seemed too low and just not very effective.
Well, the ABYC does have a minimum height requirement in its H-41 standard and the magic number is 24 inches.
Remember this is a minimum height above the deck surface. This is a touchy area as many builders work hard to minimize the appearance of lifelines feeling they upset the aesthetic of the boat. Sport fish boats will often be seen with large foredeck areas and no toerails or lifelines. It looks sharp, but you wouldn’t catch me walking up there while underway!
During our Cruising World Boat Of the Year inspections this is definitely something we check, and the consensus among the judges is that 30 inches is a far better height than 24 for the average adult, and we certainly do see boats set up that way.
Further of course, for boats with children aboard, netting in addition to the lifelines is a great idea. This is certainly a tough area where you need to balance safety with just plain ugly.
Lifelines and stanchions are not especially good-looking. An interesting observation I’ve made in recent years with the advent of the really high-end day sailors from the likes of Sabre Yachts, Morris Yachts and others is that the stanchions and lifelines are optional and designed in some cases to be removable so as to not destroy the visual of their magnificent sheer lines of these craft as they sit in their berths or hang on a mooring