Jackstay (nautical) A line(rope, webbing or cable), attached to a boat at the ends, to which a safety harness can be clipped to restrain falling in rough conditions and to prevent falling overboard.
Jackstays can be made from rope, wire, coated wire or most generally, webbing. They run the length of the boat attached at either end with sewn loops, which are in turn attached to shackles. The shackle must be wide enough for the webbing to fit on the shackle pin and be placed far enough back to the stern so that you can clip on when still sat in the cockpit. Chandlers and sail makers will make the jackstays specifically to fit your boat.
In a nut shell – jackstays are there to keep you from going overboard by acting as a linear anchor point to which you attach yourself with a safety line, which in turn is attached to a harness or lifejacket (with a built in harness). When sailing with children, you should ideally consider attaching them to the jackstay with a dedicated children’s safety line any time they move out of the cockpit during trips. This way, if there are any stumbles on deck, the line will stop the child falling in the water.
If your little ones are non-swimmers, having them attached at all times on deck will give both you and them, some peace of mind and make for a more relaxing time afloat. You simply ‘clip on’ the safety hook to the line or jackstay (most probably made of high tenacity polyester webbing that is easy to work with, very strong and doesn’t scratch the decks) and then they can move freely along the length of the deck. The other end of the safety line is best attached to a D-ring on either a life jacket or harness. Sometimes there is also a D-ring on the back of the lifejacket which stops it being fiddled with (!) and can feel less ‘intrusive’ for the wearer. Having your little one attached in this way can give them an added sense of independence whilst remaining safe on the decks during trips.
Everyone should use a safety line and jackstay on board if the weather is poor and you feel at all concerned – it is always better to be prepared and safe. For a range of Safety information, check out the RNLI’s guide – HERE
Clipping on means your own little Jack stays on board…ah, see what we did there?! Stay safe and enjoy being afloat.
For a great personal account on using jackstays with children check out ‘My Sailing Boat’ blog
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