Most of my fellow mariners don’t use traction devices on their feet in winter conditions, so the idea of having more than one kind might seem a bit extravagant.
Given that slips, trips and falls are the perennial leading causes of lost-time injury causes, I am totally lost as to why more mariners don’t use them. The products I mentioned in last month’s column (Kahtoola Microspikes and Yaktrax Pro) are neither expensive nor difficult to use.
Kahtoolah’s traction cleats are essentially a mountaineering crampon replacement for use in up to moderately steep slopes. The stainless steel chains and triangular spikes bite right into ice and hard-packed snow, allowing you to move around and apply real force with confidence. If you find yourself having to clamber up on the bow of a heavily iced-up barge to moor or anchor it, you will immediately realize how valuable the spikes can be. There is nothing else that compares. The thick silicone rubber “frames” slip right around and over your boots and stay securely in place without any buckles or other mechanical parts to jam up or freeze. And you can, literally, walk up Mount Washington in them. They’re that good. They also fit into coat pockets so you can easily carry them until you need to put them on.
But the majority of the time you are more likely to find the lighter-duty and less aggressive Yaktrax Pro to be the best choice. Attached in similar fashion but more around the edges of your soles, they have instep straps to better hold them in place. Yaktrax Pro’s grip comes from tightly-wound stainless steel coils that provide good traction in most situations. They’re excellent for allowing you to shovel, break up ice, and salt the deck areas without hurting yourself in the process. They can be used on bare decks, stairs and ladders, where Kahtoola Microspikes can’t.
Both companies make other types of devices, which have their merits. But I recommend these two products for routine marine use. If you want to easily reduce your risk of a slip or fall, you can’t go wrong.