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Old 18-05-2016, 14:06   #1
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Plan for Ascending Mast

The law of averages finally caught with me this weekend and, despite a near windless day, I lost my main halyard up the mast. I do not have a spinnaker halyard nor a topping lift so the jib halyard is my only means of going up the mast to retrieve the main halyard. The glaring concern, of course, is the inability to ascend the mast without being secured to a secondary halyard.

However, I think I have devised a safe alternative for retrieval but have a few concerns so i thought I would bounce the plan and my concerns off the forum to see how viable or ludicrous this idea might be. Here is my plan:

1) Attach jib halyard to climbing harness which is led to primary winch on cabintop
2) Rig two independent foot straps and secure them to mast using icicle hitches
3) Ascend mast by alternately raising icicle hitches while jibsheet is winched in as a safety line.
4) When I reach the spreaders tie safety lines to the base of each spreader to help support weight while I untie icicle hitches and re-secure above spreaders.
5) Continue up mast and retrieve main halyard.
6) Secure main halyard to harness providing the proper safety redundancy (and not lose again!).
7) reverse process to return to deck.
8) Have a heart attack.

My three main concerns are this:
1) Is the aluminum mast too smooth/fat a surface for even an icicle hitch to effectively (and safely) grip and slide? I weigh about 200 pounds.
2) Although superior in its gripping ability is the icicle hitch too complex relative to other grip and slide alternatives (esp for re-tying halfway up to get past spreaders)?
3) My halyards are wire to rope which forces me to secure to my harness using the shackle instead of securing with a bowline. Is there any way to shore up the reliability of the shackle? This concern is the reason I will tie to both spreaders before releasing the hitches from the mast.

I intend to test as much of the plan as I can at the base of the mast before attempting the climb. Any feedback, thoughts, advice, suggestions or questions will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 18-05-2016, 14:24   #2
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

Plan sounds ok, but I have doubts about the icicle hitch. That would take some testing. Is jib halyard all rope? When I was young and foolish and a little stronger I used to just climb the mast while someone else took up the slack on a halyard an a harness. Once at the top I tied a line over the masthead to help out. If you have a rope halyard, I have heard of raising the main loosely with the jib halyard, with a block attached at the head so you could run a line through it as a safety line for someone to keep on the winch. The the idea is to climb the main's luff (with feet on the the slugs or slides.) I have never tried it so I have no idea how it works, but it is just another one of those questionable things I'd probably try.

oops, just caught it, you have wire to rope so I am guessing you'll have wire wrapping the winch if you try my way... hmmm needs more thought. But I think your concern about the shackle is unnecessary if it is big enough and secured.
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Old 18-05-2016, 14:34   #3
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

So... can you use the winch to hoist yourself to the very top, or does the line turn to wire before then? What's the problem with just using the jib halyard?
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Old 18-05-2016, 14:47   #4
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Plan for Ascending Mast

Climbers take massive falls on one rope all the time; you'll be fine (assuming you don't have a reason to think your jib halyard is past its prime).

As for the shackle, can you back it up with some lashings? I could see the shackle alone being uncomfortable.

If you don't trust your belay (the by far likelier source of a fall), find a different one! With a few wraps around a winch and a bit of attention, it is hard to drop someone.

The hitch around the mast might work, but would be very slow and more trouble than it's worth.

For what it is worth, I do use two lines, one to my climbing harness and the other to the chair. I only trust the harness, but the chair is more comfy.



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Old 18-05-2016, 14:54   #5
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don C L View Post
Plan sounds ok, but I have doubts about the icicle hitch. That would take some testing. Is jib halyard all rope? When I was young and foolish and a little stronger I used to just climb the mast while someone else took up the slack on a halyard an a harness. Once at the top I tied a line over the masthead to help out. If you have a rope halyard, I have heard of raising the main loosely with the jib halyard, with a block attached at the head so you could run a line through it as a safety line for someone to keep on the winch. The the idea is to climb the main's luff (with feet on the the slugs or slides.) I have never tried it so I have no idea how it works, but it is just another one of those questionable things I'd probably try.

oops, just caught it, you have wire to rope so I am guessing you'll have wire wrapping the winch if you try my way... hmmm needs more thought. But I think your concern about the shackle is unnecessary if it is big enough and secured.
That's an interesting idea, although the slugs on my main are probably too small to be effective. I imagine there is a risk in damaging the sail. Thanks!
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Old 18-05-2016, 14:55   #6
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

I suggest an alternate plan. Tie a couple of fishing tackle snag hooks just above the shackle on your jib halyard. Secure the bitter end of your jib halyard to the jib halyard shackle and hoist the snag hooks to the mast head where your lost halyard is present. Vigorously rotate your jib halyard to snag the other halyard and pull it down.

Of course, all this plan is no good if your halyards and internal or if you can't swing the snag hooks around to the lost halyard. Also you could end up with two halyards caught aloft, but I've had great success with this!
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Old 18-05-2016, 15:01   #7
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by DDabs View Post
So... can you use the winch to hoist yourself to the very top, or does the line turn to wire before then? What's the problem with just using the jib halyard?
The line is all rope to sufficiently hoist the halyard all the way. The big concern is having to rely on the shackle instead of a bowline to hold my weight as well as the age of the halyard, splice, etc. Plan is to eventually replace halyards with all rope which is why I am going to inspect the sheaves while I'm up there so see if they can handle the thicker rope or need to be changed out.
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Old 18-05-2016, 15:03   #8
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

I use prussic loops - works in the same way as your icicle hitch - one connected to a climbing harness (i don't trust/feel insecure in bosun's chairs) and the other to a timber step on a rope loop. Secure, then crank the main halyard bar-tight and use the step/harness and prussics to slowly ascend/descend the halyard; a jib halyard secured at the foot of the mast will be equally suitable. For preference I have someone to tail a separate safety line, but if as it sounds, you don't have the option, just go carefully.
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Old 18-05-2016, 15:05   #9
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by fallingeggs View Post
Climbers take massive falls on one rope all the time; you'll be fine (assuming you don't have a reason to think your jib halyard is past its prime).

As for the shackle, can you back it up with some lashings? I could see the shackle alone being uncomfortable.

If you don't trust your belay (the by far likelier source of a fall), find a different one! With a few wraps around a winch and a bit of attention, it is hard to drop someone.

The hitch around the mast might work, but would be very slow and more trouble than it's worth.

For what it is worth, I do use two lines, one to my climbing harness and the other to the chair. I only trust the harness, but the chair is more comfy.



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The halyard seems to be in good shape but is indeed old. My newest thought is to just do one hitch to the mast connected to the harness as backup and just move that up as I am winched to the top instead of trying to move the foot straps. That way I can just secure a new one above the spreaders before releasing the lower one. Seems much simpler and less lines to worry about.
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Old 18-05-2016, 15:08   #10
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

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Originally Posted by Hudson Force View Post
I suggest an alternate plan. Tie a couple of fishing tackle snag hooks just above the shackle on your jib halyard. Secure the bitter end of your jib halyard to the jib halyard shackle and hoist the snag hooks to the mast head where your lost halyard is present. Vigorously rotate your jib halyard to snag the other halyard and pull it down.

Of course, all this plan is no good if your halyards and internal or if you can't swing the snag hooks around to the lost halyard. Also you could end up with two halyards caught aloft, but I've had great success with this!
Unfortunately, at least in this case, my halyards are internal but I like the creative thinking! Thanks.
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Old 18-05-2016, 15:30   #11
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Plan for Ascending Mast

Personally, I go up on one halyard all the time. I use an ascender and a Grigri. I'd never go up on a wire to rope halyard. I wouldn't use a shackle unless it was plenty strong, and I could mouse the pin. Never on a snap shackle. Can you swap out the jib halyard with a new line?


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Old 18-05-2016, 15:33   #12
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

yeah can't you just put the end of the halyard (where the shackle is attached) through your bosuns chair loops and back to itself?
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Old 18-05-2016, 15:33   #13
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

If you do not trust the remaining halyard, why not make this the time to replace it? You can use the existing halyard to lead the new rope through the mast and over the sheaves and back down to you. Then you would have a nice new trustworthy halyard to be hoisted upon.

And FWIW, I use a shackle to connect my chair to the eye splice at the end of the hoisting halyard. I use a tested 3/8 inch D shackle with a breaking strength of several tons, and worry not. Frankly, I think many of the folks here on CF overthink the hazards of going up masts, at least on boats whose rigging is decently sized. I've watched any number of professional riggers being lifted aloft on a single halyard, day after day, boat after boat. They are all still alive at the end of the day!

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Old 18-05-2016, 15:34   #14
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

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Originally Posted by Training Wheels View Post
Personally, I go up on one halyard all the time. I use an ascender and a Grigri. If you have any doubt about the halyard, swap it out with a new line. I'm assuming it's an all rope halyard, I'd never go up on a wire to rope halyard. I wouldn't use a shackle. Don't understand why you can't use a bowline.


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It's a wire to rope halyard which prevents me from trying a bowline and why I am so concerned with having as much back-up as possible. The good news is this problem is finally forcing me to go up the mast to inspect the sheaves in preparation for replacing with all rope halyards.
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Old 18-05-2016, 15:37   #15
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Re: Plan for Ascending Mast

I wouldn't go up on a wire to rope halyard myself. Can you swap out the halyard?


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