All good questions... see you are really thinking this through (before ordering/ drilling any holes?). Mine are centered and on the p/s faces of the mast and don't have trouble accessing climbing up aft or bow side or switching mid- height/ often use spreaders for that, but at top you can just find you need to be on the other side. (I suppose we all have our own method of getting on other side of mast... I go down a step or two, get a good grip on higher step and 'hang' with arm strength while making a quick left to right foot swap in a chosen step, then finish swinging around to other side, and back up on opposite side.) I recommend you always have TWO safety
lines... a short 6' or so that you clip to next step as you move up/ down and a halyard
that goes down to deck crew (wife) via around a winch
drum which they keep just less than tight. If you ever slip... it will be the difference between a fright or a flight (with a likely very very unhappy landing).
Regarding an 'elevator' ride up/ down... the closest I seen/ done is using a variable speed w/ high & low gear
shift Milwaukee 24v battery
angle drill with a jawed bit that fits your winch
like a winch handle. Use the low 0-600 rpm
position. Even a small frame assistant can leverage their body against the end of the drill and slowly lift
you up at controlled speed using the variable speed trigger. Slow to start... a little faster as you lift
off/ get in a rhythm with legs/ arms slip-guiding you you... slow again as you have to work around stays or approaching your work site. A fresh drill battery
is good for 4-5 trips up!
BUT, don't want to sound like a nervous ninny but ideally for full safety
sake) you really should have a second person tailing the winch. If using the drill/ electric
windless on the boat, it is really critical that the climber have/ maintain his own safety lines. It's just too easy for something to go wrong... lines/ wraps coming off the winch head/ operator looses grip tailing, especially if your helpers are new to using the 'lift drill' operation/ tailing. Cruising couples can get very good but extreme caution is in order if you ask non-boating friends/ even other boaters you don't know well.
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