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Old 20-08-2013, 23:46   #16
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We talked to a broker about a boat and he mentioned that the original owner had outfitted the boat for a circumnavigation and in 1989 he fell from the mast and died. :-(. We aren't superstitious but still....lots of other things wrong with the boat to cross it off the list but that sure didn't help. This was a CSY 44 and supposedly happened in Chile.
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Old 21-08-2013, 01:46   #17
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

I've heard about two incidents ... but it's always a friend of a friend heard about ...

One was an old couple who were two handed (perhaps the one mentioned earlier) where the gent was being winched up by his wife via the electric winch. There was a problem, and she got her hand caught in the winch, and it got mangled. But she was caught, and he was stuck up the mast. It took a passing good samaritan to free her and get him down, and then get her to hospital.

The second was another old couple, he went up the mast, had a heart attack, and died. She couldn't get him down and ended up sailing the boat into port with him still in the rigging.
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Old 21-08-2013, 07:06   #18
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

Hi thanks for the responses. I did an article on the incident in Antigua where the woman got caught in the which. I interviewed several first hand witnesses. Here are the facts on that one. Project Boat Zen - Boat and Yacht Repair and Restoration

Seems like most of the rest are like I hear, a friend of a friend said..... At least it seems these things are rare considering how often people go aloft. This is good to know and I think common sense safety will keep you safe.

Ok now to find something else to worry about lol.
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Old 21-08-2013, 07:30   #19
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

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Originally Posted by sailvayu View Post
Perhaps I should not ask this as I climb more masts than most, as a surveyor, but I am wondering if anyone has any first hand or even second hand information about anyone getting hurt or killed while mast climbing? It has occurred to me that I have never heard of an accident but I am wondering if there are many if any cases?

Just curious I guess but it might help with safety

On the subject of safety a few things come to mind nw that I have ruminated about it.


Some rules I learned in school that are very helpful:

Never carry the tools and parts up with you, load them in a nice canvas bucket with a rope handle and snap hook. Attach that to a handline that is flaked out on deck. Tuck the end of the handline into your belt in a way that if tugged a bit it will fall away and not pull you down.

It is always good to have a gopher. If you have a gopher it is smart for them to have a hardhat and understand that when you yell "headache" it means you dropped something not to look up.

Always keep at least on knee locked and 3 points of contact.

Keep the deck area around the base of the mast as clear as possible to not cause a trip and fall when stepping off after you have completed the climb. (it happens)
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Old 21-08-2013, 18:08   #20
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

I am often shocked at seeing how many sailors go up the mast in a bosun's chair and with no back up device and with just the crew holding a line on a winch. It is so easy to fall out of those chairs. Also, what if the halyard snaps or shackle or pulley or whatever breaks? Or what if the guy on the halyard slips, gets cramp or looks at the pretty girl going past when he has your life in his hands? Clearly there have serious accidents over the years and these risks are significant in my view.

I work with people doing access at height work and they wouldn't ever want to or be allowed by health and safety regulations to do what so many sailors do. As a minimum wear a proper harness and take up a safety line on a second halyard with a fall arrest device attached to it. Very cheap kit and may well save your life. It will take more time, will make you look like a pansy, but you won't get me up there without it.
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Old 21-08-2013, 18:57   #21
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pirate Re: Hazards of going aloft

I used to shin up until about 10yrs ago... now I need the chair... 60 odd yrs of smoking does that..
No personal falls but there is the legend of the guy who got his wife to winch him up the mast 9 days outa St Lucia... tied himself off then proceeded to have a heart attack... the wife had to finish the 9 days with her husbands corpse swinging around at the masthead.. true story..? or BS...??
But it kinda makes ya think...
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Old 21-08-2013, 19:04   #22
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

Last summer I met some members of the crew of a wooden schooner called Appeldore or Appeldore II. They apparently had a fall while "belaying" a crew member which resulted in a death. I have heard of a couple of other falls as well. I treat going aloft very seriously -- especially if I am entrusting someone else to tend to my lines.
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Old 21-08-2013, 19:05   #23
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

The corpse didn't just 'swing around the masthead'.

On the second day it voided its bowels..... shortly thereafter it started shedding body parts.... the worst day was when the head fell of.... rolled along the side deck and fell, with a 'plop', into the sea.
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Old 21-08-2013, 19:13   #24
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pirate Re: Hazards of going aloft

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The corpse didn't just 'swing around the masthead'.

On the second day it voided its bowels..... shortly thereafter it started shedding body parts.... the worst day was when the head fell of.... rolled along the side deck and fell, with a 'plop', into the sea.
ROTFLMAO.... zero experience with dead bodies huh..!!
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Old 21-08-2013, 19:17   #25
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

The choice of equipment I think it is very personal. Some people prefer bosun's armchair, others will use climbing harness.

I always use a harness and if the job takes much time then I will put the harness on first then go up in the chair. Then I can sit comfortably for an hour or two. I clip the harness into the second halyard when going up and control this one myself. When all the way up, I will use an extra loop to hook into a piece of equipment. For harness is great just do not try to sit in it for anything more than a quick stunt.

I think this is a pretty bullet-proof set up - two separate attachment points and two separate halyards. And very comfy too.

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Old 22-08-2013, 14:35   #26
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

I was just recently talking with a guy at the sailing club who fell from the top of his mast while the boat was on the hard...about 50' to the pavement. I am not sure how, but he only walked away with some minor back issues and shredded hands from trying to self-arrest on anything he could grab. If I recall correctly, he was up and had one guy on a halyard winch and another tailing. When it was time to descend, the line got away from the guys in the cockpit and down he came. I am not sure what all safety equipment was involved, but do know that the two guys on deck had been drinking heavily.

My wife and I both used to do some climbing, so we just break out the harnesses when it is time to go up, and double redundancy is the name of the game. I use two separate halyards (one connected to the harness via a figure 8 follow through knot and the other via a halyard shackle). The halyards run through line clutches into the cockpit and before I go up I hang from just the clutches for 30 or so seconds just to be sure that they alone will hold. Aft of the clutches is a friend on the halyard winch cranking me up, and aft of him is my wife in her harness tailing both lines through an ATC type belay device. So I guess it's kind of a hybrid top-rope climbing system. Lots would have to fail in sync, and of course booze is forbidden. Spending 30-40 minutes hanging up top in the harness can get a little uncomfortable though!

I'd like to invest in some ascending gear, but going up is so rare that I just can't justify it. It'd sure be nice to not require 3 people for the job.
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Old 22-08-2013, 15:41   #27
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

Yeah drinking and girls in bikinis is a recipe for disaster. I do not trust rope clutches myself and always use a cleat or other secure fitting. I will have someone tail a safety line when there is someone around but often i have to go up alone. I use an ascender system to go up and transfer to a descender for going down. I never trust snap shackles and prefer to tie a knot or use a good screw type shackle. Like most things this should all be common sense and keeping safety first. Personally I think the story of the man aloft at sea is an urban myth but you never know.

Good discussion and I hope it makes people think before climbing, there have been some great safety suggestions.
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Old 22-08-2013, 16:40   #28
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Same here. It is nice to know the clutches are there, but I consider them a backup to my wife taking slack out of both lines and locking off the belay device, and then cleating me off on horn cleats when I'm up top. I am sure I underestimate the holding power of those clutches, but I don't like only relying on one system to keep me alive.
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Old 22-08-2013, 16:46   #29
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

yeah I think that is key do not rely on a single system always have a backup.
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Old 24-08-2013, 21:56   #30
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Re: Hazards of going aloft

When I lived in Clipper Harbor Sausalito in the mid 70s, I was told of two falls from mast heads. One, the man landed on his back on deck, and the deck was so springy that it tossed him back up in the air and he landed in the water. No injury other than fear and shock. The second one landed the man in a wheel chair. I was told these (maybe) tales because I was putting steps on the mast of my Contessa 26. I was useing a safety harness, and a bosuns chair. Once the steps were on I never went up the mast without using them and a safety harness and a halyard attached, except when I had to change a headstay near the equator. You cant put a safety harness around the mast when the main is up, and if you drop the main the motion at the masthead would be awful. Mid ocean at the masthead is something I would hope to never do again, but it would have been really scary without the steps. I put steps on my next 2 cruising boats (37 ft and 44 ft) but never had to climb out at sea again. I am in the market for another cruising boat, and one of the upgrades will be steps to the masthead. _____Grant.
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