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Old 02-05-2006, 04:48   #1
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Several Excellent Articles

Safety Aloft ~ by Jeffrey E. Isaac, PA-C*

* PA-C: Physician Assistant - Certified.

”Gravity is not just a good idea, it’s the law. This law catches and kills something like 300,000 people per year. These facts are worth remembering anytime you put a lot of air between you and the next stop below.
As a member of a high-angle rescue team, I am constantly reviewing safety systems and procedures ... But as a sailor, I just hook my bosun’s chair to the main halyard and let my wife crank me aloft to work on the rig. I am exposed to the same potential for injury and death. Yet, I put my trust in systems that have no redundancy and undergo far less scrutiny ... In deference to the law of gravity, and from the perspective of a mountaineer and a sailor, here are some tips to help you reduce that risk:”


More excellent articles:

Gord May
"If you didn't have the time or money to do it right in the first place, when will you get the time/$ to fix it?"

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Old 02-05-2006, 19:29   #2
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Interesting and informative articles, by an author who is a physician's assistant, and who sails.

Worth the time to read.

s/y Elizabeth— Catalina 34 MkII
"Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them." — G. K. Chesterfield
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Old 03-05-2006, 06:02   #3
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As a long time mountaineer I have to admit that the most frightening equipment that came with my boat was the bosuns chair.
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Old 03-05-2006, 07:10   #4
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As one who also did quite a bit of mountaineering and rescue, bosun chairs also give me the 'willies', especially when belayed to a 'winch'. After the last time I went 'up', I subsequently raised and strained-up the mainsail halyard .... only to have the drum of the winch come off the spindle (old Barlow). I've been 'on-scene' one time when the snap-shackle loosened when this person was working at the mast top, fell to the deck (stancheon, actually). What a mess of a human body.
I still use 'prussik - safety jumpers' across all my terminal knots (never use shackles); and in future, if there is a winch involved - a secondary belay from a spare halyard.
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Old 03-05-2006, 13:44   #5
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Good article. I have been fortunate to have had a job were being suspended high above the ground was part of the job requirments. The highest I have been is 65m(200+ft). I have taken what I learned in that proffession, to the boat. This is how I do "it".

Firstly, I believe you can go too overboard with all this. Keep the system simple. The more complicated, the more chance of a mistake being made. I don't have lots of differing safety harnesses and gear for different applications. Proper harnesses are rated and should be tested regularly to ensure they are safe and legal.

As Gords article suggests, DO NOT ever EVER, use a snap shackle. They may "lock" within it's catch point, but it is far to easy to apply pressure to the release pin and unlock it.

I use a Bosuns chair. A properly built chair is safe. The chair is not going to fail. What you do have to consider however, what if you loose balance or maybe even for some strange reason, unconciouseness. Will the chair hold you, or could you flip out. So I wear my normal safety harness, NOT as a fall harness, but as a means of holding me into the chair, should something happen.

I use a second short tether harness to attach myself to the mast once I have reached the top. This is becuase it is a two person excersise for us. Dawn hauls me up using the anchor capstan as the winch. The halyard runs through the brake, around the halyard winch, and to the capstan. So if in some circumstance she lets go, the halyard is captive. When she lets me down, she comes back to the halyard winch and controls the decent from there. But just in case she gets a little confused (maybe I need to trust here more, but it is that "look" in her at eye when she has compleate control of my life ) the tether is there as a back up.

All tools need to be tetherd. Not only is a falling tool dangerouse to my wife below, but it makes a terrible mess of a deck from that height. And worse, if we are in the Marina, I have a very expensive boat beside me. I was very lucky with that one day. I just drove a bolt out of the mast head. It flew out and landed in the water right were the M$$ boat normally sat. It was out that day. It would have probably gone clean through his very expensive front glass windscreens.

For safety, inspect your chair and harness thoroughly before every use. Apart from that, it is safe and can be very fun. I love it and I regularly take teenagers out on the boat, were I give them a chance to go up the mast. They love it.

For God so loved the world..........He didn't send a committee.
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Old 03-05-2006, 14:38   #6
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Some good points here. I love my wife dearly and wouldn't trust her for a minute to winch me up (I picture her saying "darn broke a nail" while letting go of the halyard!) Also most of the guys wandering around the marina begin lifting an elbow by 10am so they are out. I've always asked a nearby boat to keep an eye on me and then used Gibbs ascenders to climb aloft on a line hauled up on the jib and spinnaker halyards . These days I use the line / ascender system as protection and climb using mast steps or a mast mate. I've begun using the teather around the mast with the mast mate.

I'll never forget looking down from the top of the mast the first time thinking 'This rope has been in the sun for a long time. When it breaks I'll first hit that shroud, then the finger pier, then the boat... If I'm really lucky I'll land on the deck of that Westsail.'

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