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Old 15-01-2018, 11:49   #1
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Mast Climbing on the Cheap

I wanted to figure out a way to get up my 34' mast by myself, but didn't want to drop $400 on an ATN Mastclimber. So the challenge was to figure out how to do it safely, for under $100, with equipment that would be useful for other purposes.

Other than basic sailing equipment I already had, I bought a 50', 1-1/2" manila climbing rope and a full body climbing harness that I can use later with jacklines. The harness has two 6' tethers leading to the top of my back. I would prusik one tether to the jib halyard and lead the snap hook back to the harness. The other tether would go around the mast to prevent horizontal movement and free up my hands at the top. I can tie knots in the climbing rope to stand on. Physically, I'm pretty young but overweight.

One thing I haven't worked out is how to secure the climbing rope to the main halyard. I tried to tie a sheet bend with the manila rope and a shoelace, the results weren't satisfactory. Most knots aren't designed to work with a huge size difference. I also don't know whether I should try to assemble some kind of standing platform for the top knot.
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Old 15-01-2018, 13:26   #2
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Mast Climbing on the Cheap

First, dump the manila rope, it rots in a moist environment and thatís what you have on a boat. It would be OK at first but after a couple years I would start to worry.

Next, whatíre your main and jib halyards? Rope-wire mix, all rope or one of the new lines thatís really skinny?

Is the rig masthead or fractional?

Assuming you have a masthead rig and rope or rope-wire halyards of a reasonable minimum diameter you can use 3 prusik knots to go up.

Cleat off the halyards tight so you have rope for both on the forward side of the mast.

2 prusiks of differing lengths go to your feet from 1 halyard and the 3rd prusik goes to the 2nd halyard as a Safety.

Iíve never done this but itís something Iíve read about for climbing.
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Old 15-01-2018, 13:29   #3
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

The halyards are 3/8" synthetic, probably dyneema. Masthead rig. I can live with a short lifespan for the rope, using a synthetic rope at that thickness would dramatically increase the cost.
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Old 15-01-2018, 14:07   #4
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

If the halyards are in good condition, climb those - one to climb, one as a safety. Use prussic knots/loops. One short loop to harness/bosun's chair, one longer one for your feet. Medium for safety line. Tension both the halyards before starting the climb. Total cost, probably nothing - suitable line for the prussics is probably aboard. I do this regularly for work, and it works very well.
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Old 15-01-2018, 14:53   #5
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

Here is a link to a youtube vid that shows one inexpensive way to achieve what you want: I made my own, (and improved on it slightly) plus used a safety harness. I have used it several times. You can find my post here: Getting Up The Mast It's rather lengthy and maybe confusing a little but it was just my way of paying a tribute to a guy that gave me some pointers. He recently lost his wife to cancer.
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Old 15-01-2018, 14:57   #6
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

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Originally Posted by CFS Klopas View Post

One thing I haven't worked out is how to secure the climbing rope to the main halyard. I tried to tie a sheet bend with the manila rope and a shoelace, the results weren't satisfactory. Most knots aren't designed to work with a huge size difference. I also don't know whether I should try to assemble some kind of standing platform for the top knot.
Dump the manila rope. It's your life; why take chances by adding a weaker link to the system?

That said I would suggest you just splice an eye loop to the end. That will give you multiple possibilities for attaching a halyard.
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Old 15-01-2018, 15:19   #7
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

The reason I picked Manila was both for thicker size and because the natural fibers are less slippery, both features making it easier to grip. With that said, I hear you about the reduced safety. During my research, the primary drawback of manila was a tendency to rot from the inside out, making it difficult to inspect.
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Old 15-01-2018, 16:29   #8
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

The Riggers Apprentice by Brion Toss is a good book. He outlines extensive complex and simple solutions for exactly the sort of problem you face, and many other situations that are relevant to sailboat ownership and maintenance.
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Old 15-01-2018, 17:01   #9
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

I like the Mast Mate. Fast and easy, plus you get two nice stable footholds when you get there. I insert extra padding under the leg loops if it's going to be a while.

Not cheap, perhaps, but this one is 20 years old and doesn't even have the shine off it. Pretty cheap on a per-trip basis.

I'm an old school trad climber from 40 years back, and I know all about jumaring. I have the gear, several sets. I like this better.

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Old 15-01-2018, 23:56   #10
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

im planning on climbing my mast with my fathers old arborist harness , someone stole my bosun's chair

and to address the manila rope youd probubly be better off with 550 paracord honestly
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Old 16-01-2018, 10:29   #11
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

Simple cheap, reliable and easy:

And a double sheet bend is what you use when one line is larger than the other.

As for hoisting yourself aloft, if you can find enough line a handy billy with a catamaran mainsheet (ratcheting ) block works pretty good
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Old 16-01-2018, 11:17   #12
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

I like my MastClimber. Sometimes they come up for sale second hand, in very good shape for reasonable price. Watch for one. Also, I have a dedicated moderately-low stretch line that I use only for climbing. It's pulled very tight, as the MastClimber is easier to use that way, especially when sliding the lower ratchet/cleat up. Also, I tie my climbing line to the main halyard, and hoist it up. Tie a very tight, short knot though. Otherwise when you get to the top of the mast, you will find the knot prevents you from getting high enough to work on anything on the very top. The bottom of the climbing rope runs thru a block at the mast base, and then to a cleat. Pulled tight.

If my wife is with me, we will use the spin halyard as a safety line. Also, if she is around when I am ready to come down, she will lower me via the main halyard rather than me having to climb down a foot or so at a time. I find coming down with the MastClimber much more difficult than going up.

Finally, I have been up the mast on other boats that had the luxury of an electric winch to hoist me up. For that, I have a nice comfy bosuns chair with pockets for tools. A couple of times I have used a climbing harness similar to the pic that someone posted earlier. I find the problem with those is that I lose circulation in my legs after hanging in those. As such, I try to avoid using them.
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Old 16-01-2018, 11:20   #13
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

Quote:
Originally Posted by captmikem View Post
Simple cheap, reliable and easy:

And a double sheet bend is what you use when one line is larger than the other.

As for hoisting yourself aloft, if you can find enough line a handy billy with a catamaran mainsheet (ratcheting ) block works pretty good
M
I wouldn't feel safe in this one. Lean back, and out - or inverted - you go. My bosuns chair has straps across the back that keep you upright, and in the chair.
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Old 16-01-2018, 11:25   #14
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

The guy has already purchased the manila rope. Nothing wrong with a brand new 1-1/2" (12mm dia?) manila climbing rope. Only age will kill it, so dump it before it ages. Climbers don't use double sheet bends to join ropes - never safe enough to risk your life on - here they use an overhand knot, much safer. Me, I'd use a fisherman's knot, double fisherman's, or carrick bend if you're sure you know how to tie it.
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Old 16-01-2018, 11:30   #15
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Re: Mast Climbing on the Cheap

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Originally Posted by masou View Post
im planning on climbing my mast with my fathers old arborist harness , someone stole my bosun's chair

and to address the manila rope youd probubly be better off with 550 paracord honestly
Arborist harnesses assume your feet will be supported with spikes; they are NOT for hanging and will hurt your legs in just a few minutes, probably before you get to the top.

Tape some firm foam ~ 3" wide in the leg loops. You'll like it.
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