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Old 21-10-2010, 10:00   #16
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Another happy aluminum folding step owner. I go up with a climbing harness as backup and clip in with a tether while on top - standing on the two steps opposite each other for balance.
I put them on when the mast was down, but it should be possible to mount them with it up - just a lot slower and from the bottom up ;-). Drilled and tapped for ss machine screws set in TufGel (or similar) and backed with tape called "Underground Pipe Wrap" which looks like thick, wide electrician's tape, sticky on one side, easy to cut with small scissors. Good for bedding stuff on the mast in general - available in box hardware stores. Backing wasn't necessary in this case but made me feel better about the project, kept the steps from scratching the mast...
As I recall, the way of least effort was to drill and tap one hole for the step, mount the step, then drill and tap the two other holes through the step - otherwise the holes were always a little bit off and difficult to use. Take the step off, clean away the metal threads, mount permanently then on to the next one.
Try someone else's steps to check on how much rise between steps will work for you (and others).
Unfortunately the price of these little buggers has gone way up, as with everything else...
Michael
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Old 21-10-2010, 10:17   #17
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We installed a two speed self tailing winch for the main halyard. My wife can pull me up with that. However, we recently switched to using the anchor windlass (Loftran Tigress) to pull me up. I use the spinnaker halyard (tie a bowline, don't use the snap shackle) lead to the windlass. It goes through a line stopper first that is closed. If it slips off the windlass or some other failure occurs, the line stopper holds me. As an additional safety, I secure another halyard to the deck and use an ascender attached to my harness that I move up the secured line as I go up. If everything broke with the lifting rig I would still not fall. It makes going up so easy that I am willing to do it whenever necessary. Kind of like reefing the first time you think about it. I don't put off going up to check or repair something anymore. I may still put two trianglular mast steps at the top to stand on when working there.
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Old 21-10-2010, 10:26   #18
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I have a wooden spar. Every screw hole (no matter how well bedded) is just another chance to allow rot so the idea of putting 50+ screws into the stick is crazy talk.

ATN Top Climber + a backup line in case that snaps. As far as the danger of a halyard snapping it's about the same as an aluminum step snapping in half while all your weight is on it. Remote chance but possible with either technique.

Buy a climbing harness and just keep some tension on it no matter what you're doing.
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Old 21-10-2010, 10:30   #19
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To add to Michael's comments above, re: installation, I did not install mine (the masts were up), but had a rigger do it. Every time I climb up I get pissed off, because the steps are not evenly spaced within each mast, and the spacing on the mizzen is quite different than on the main. This (like almost every other mostly manual labor, relatively low skill that can be acquired thru research and a little experience) is something better done yourself.

My comment, then, is on spacing - I agree with Michael, figure out what is comfortable for you, then make sure when you install them you pay attention to spacing. Think it thru beforehand - figure out where spreaders fall (I do use them as steps), where standing rigging attaches (at least one of my steps is wedged in between where two shrouds attach to the mast, and is difficult to get out and back in), and what spacing you want. Its really the measure twice, cut (drill) once approach. Unfortunately I had mine done at a point where I doubted my own abilities and had more $$ than time. Now I just won't generally pay anyone to do something unless its way, way out of my comfort zone (HP injection pumps, etc.).

Good luck.

Dave, SV Liberty
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Old 21-10-2010, 12:06   #20
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Good advise by SV Liberty above, with an addition.
Approximately 4', depending on your height, you should have 2 steps side be side so that you can stand easily to work at the masthead. Also might want to do the same below the spreaders for working on spreader lights and erc.
I used the wide flat SS strap style...
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Old 21-10-2010, 12:08   #21
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2 side by side + 1 for safety harness of you are using one.
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Old 21-10-2010, 12:34   #22
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We have aluminum steps that were installed when we bought the boat. We recently removed our masted for painting and rerigging and rebedded all of the fasteners. All of the steps for my mast weigh about 12lbs, total, so weight aloft is a non-issue. Sure, it increases the windage a bit, and maybe noise, but we have five external halyards, lazyjacks, a vertically stored spinnaker pole, three flag halyards, running backstays, etc, so there is going to be noise in 30kts no matter what.

My steps are the type that encapsulate one's foot and I don't suggest any other type. I've climbed a few masts with folding steps or just studs and it's too easy for your foot to slip off the side of the step, especially if you have to climb the mast in a seaway or are standing in one place for a long time. Start the steps about 10' above deck and use a couple folding steps down low for getting up to the triangulars. I just use my mast winches, but a short-legged person would have trouble with this.

I highly suggest this style, not folding. Note the snag-preventing wire rigged on the upper steps. It's not an issue on the lowers.



I've attached a photo of the type of steps we have. Not they have many ridges; this makes them very strong while being light gauge aluminum, thus light. I'm not sure who makes them, but they are more grippy and far lighter than any stainless variety I've seen.

Good luck!
Aaron
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Old 21-10-2010, 13:09   #23
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Blahman: These are very similar to what I had on my boat, but mine were tubular alum. I actually like yours better because I think they may weigh a bit less. To add grip I put antislip-tape on the inside foot area.
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Old 21-10-2010, 13:15   #24
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Im wondering if anyone has climbed a mast using a technique similar to coconut tree climbers - securing your ankles + a loop around your waist. I imagine this might also be a technique if you also put some sort of button or wedges on the mast so your feet could grip in places as needed.
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Old 21-10-2010, 14:27   #25
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Aluminum Mast Steps

I use to use nylon electric ties to secure my shackle pins in place, but found that the white ones lasted less than a year and the black ones a little longer. For this reason, I'm afraid of the nylon mast steps degrading.

I think I'm sold on the "Cast Aluminum Mast Steps", which I found for $19.95 each, at the address below:
SAILBOAT FOLDING MAST STEPS CAST ALUMINUM: eBay Motors (item 330486069988 end time Oct-24-10 18:46:37 PDT)

Regarding mounting them, I don't like the idea of screwing SS into aluminum, because in time the aluminum will loose. For this reason, I'm thinking that aluminum rivets make the most sense. Since there are 4 mounting holes, the aluminum rivets should be fine and not be in a corrosion conflict with the step and mast.

Southern Star - Brad (or anyone else for that matter) do you have any installation tips?
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Old 21-10-2010, 15:11   #26
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Tim,

I think you will learn to regret relying on folding steps up high. They are very hard to work and stand on for long periods. You have to be extremely aware of your foot placement. With a captive step, your foot has a much lower chance of slipping out, and it can't slip off the side. If you have to go up the mast while in the ocean, you're going to have a hell of a time no matter what, but you're legs will die in a few minutes of trying to hold yourself and feet up against the mast. Those folding steps are great for getting onto your real steps, but get up where you're at the end of a whipping pendulum and you will find that those pretty, cheap little steps are less than optimal for real life use, like so many things we find hanging in West Marine.

As for rivets, I think that's a bad idea, too! Chances are, you're not going to have a high-pressure industrial riveter that meets the right standards to ensure your rivets meet load requirements. Pop and hammer rivets don't always seat right and you have no way to inspect the backside to see if they did. With screws, you can ensure every hole is threaded well. Aluminum doesn't lose out if you follow the rules you're supposed to - bed the fasteners threads in 3M 101 or Tefgel and rebed them every four or five years. There are a LOT of stainless fasteners in my aluminum mast and I can unscrew them all; corrosion occurs only if you neglect your rig.

My few cents...

~A
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Old 21-10-2010, 15:16   #27
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Blahman - interesting comment on folding steps. I have stood on mine at the top for up to 2 hours, and its not fun (I do tie myself off on the halyard or with a line around mast so I can use both hands to work semi-comfortably - only semi- because in the back of my mind I always see myself falling). I wonder whether the top 2 steps could be the big non-folding steps that woudl keep feet in. Up there they should not present an issue hanging up lines like lower down. But if I could choose one or the other only, I'd probably choose my folding ones.
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Old 21-10-2010, 15:30   #28
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blahman - agree totally with the negative on the rivets, SS as recommended by manufacturer.

Installation, after measuring mast, spreaders etc and calculating distances, use chalk line for alignment. Winches on mast = first step. Use locktight or similar product on screws.
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Old 21-10-2010, 16:04   #29
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blahman,

Thanks for the input.
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Old 21-10-2010, 16:19   #30
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As far as rivets are concerned, use alloy on alloy if they are strong enough for the job. If alloy rivets are not strong enough, use (?) monel, then SS (yes I know some will call this a blasphemy). Use Duralac or similar to isolate the different metals.

Much less corrosion issues around monel on my alloy spars.

Also - punch out the mandrels - not all of them pop out nicely and you do not want a three metal sandwich in salt water environment.

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