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Old 08-02-2006, 10:46   #1
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Whaddya Mean - Up the Mast???

OK so at least I'm good for a few chuckles to those who read my posts... and a few chiropractors thanked me for the extra neck adjustment work they get... seems several of you hurt yourselves while shaking your heads in amazement...

First task (of many) prior to getting underway is to replace the lens on the tri-color. We have an air draft of 70ft and I'll be the first to admit that I've got a few willies about going up. A few stiff shots (kidding) and I'll be fine...

Don't have the luxury of one of those webbed-in chairs.. mine's a basic MK 1 Mod 0 bosun's chair. Yes I have a safety harness, but also many questions:

- the arrangement as I understand it is main halyard holds the chair and my weight. How do I handle the safety line on the ascent / descent?
- do I need a second halyard for the safety tether or do I somehow loop it around the mast by passing it through the eye of a bowline - hoping it will close up tight if I start to free-fall?
- there is a sail track but I'm not sure how I'd make use of it... the batcars would just free-fall down with me...
- do we need to run the winch tailing to another cleat or winch as a safety measure? I can see the line slipping and getting out of the wench's (pun intended) control...
- once at the top where should I attach the safety tether?
- do I simply wrap arms & legs around the stick and hang on for dear life?

Would appreciate any tips. Kindly hold the horror stories for later..
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Old 08-02-2006, 11:30   #2
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One method is to attach the main halyard to the bosn's chair with the shackle safety wrapped so that it cannot come undone. An additional line is tied to a separate safety harness that you wear. The additional line is just long enough to pass around the mast and back to the safety harness with a caribineer that must be unscrewed to come loose or having a double action required to get it loose. This makes it relatively easy to undo the safety line when passing spreaders (done with one arm around the mast above the spreaders using only one hand to undo and reattach the safety line).

Using a separate halyard puts an additional burden on whomever is cranking you up the mast and, therefore, detracts from the overall safety of the up-the-mast procedure. After reaching teh top the line should be hard cleated on the mast not relying on a self-tailer to constrain the halyard.

At the top of the mast I pass the safety line over the top between attached items which constrain the safety line from crawling over the edge towards me. The idea with the safety line is that if the halyard breaks you can jam your forearms together to create friction between the safety line and the mast. Practice before you go up to convince yourself that you can indeed stop your body mass from accelerating downwards doing this. You may have to use a strap instead of a round line to add friction.

If you planned correctly when you last had the mast down you installed two folding footpegs directly across from each other on the sides of the mast to correctly stand on allowing you to view anything that you might need to see at the top when doing inspection or replacement or maintanence. It is impossible to have the halyard raise you high enough to do this in a bosn's chair and still have the halyard attached to a point above your center of rotation which, otherwise, would not be safe.

Barring the advantage of the two footpegs you may carry an extra length of line to attach to the mast using a prusic hitch with two lengths of line each having a foot loop at the ends. Again, practice attaching this line down low to put your feet into so as to be able to stand up at the masthead placing your vision well above the top. You may have to add another line to the headstay to keep you from falling over backwards if you need to work with both hands.

If you plan ahead you may choose to have a tail on your safety line long enough to pass around the mast again and cinch yourself close to the mast for the case when you see a heavy wake or sea coming at the boat so that you will not be banged against the mast like a ragdoll until it is tenable to continue.
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Old 08-02-2006, 11:33   #3
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Personally, I don't use a safety tether. Like you have found, what do you fix to. If it is another halyard, it becomes just as dangerouse for the "wincher" to handle two lines as against being in control of just the one and the unlikely event of a failure.
We take the main halyard firstly through the rope brake/clutch, which is engaged at all times and then a couple of turns around the halyard winch on the mast. Then the tail is taken forward to the anchor winch and wraped around the windlass. Dawn then uses that to haul me up, as she can't manage on her own to do it manually. We don't have self tailers etc. When it comes to letting me down, she unwraps the halyard from the windlass and takes hold of the tail back at the halyard winch. she can then unlock the break and control my decent back down the mast.
As for safety, it is good to lock the safety on once you have got to the top or your working point on the mast.

There is a sad story (although if you think about it long enough, you have to laugh) of an older couple that had a problem at the top of the mast. The Husband decided it best for him to go to the top and so his wife did the winching honors. She got him all the way to the top were he then hooked on his safety line. He then had a major haeart attack and died. Unfortunatly, she now could not get him down and she had to sail for three days till they arrived at a port.
It must of been horrific for her and I fell real sorry for her.
But on the other hand, anyone watch "Weekend at Burnies"
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Old 08-02-2006, 11:57   #4
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My first strategy is to get Maggie (115 Lbs) up the stick. Iíll trust her with anything (up there) other than an electrical termination (I donít trust anyone else, on those).
Neither do we use an extra safety tether.
The topmast footpegs, Rick mentioned, should actually be offset (one higher than the other).
The lower peg allows you to work at the limits of the halyard, eyes about even /w mast-top. The upper peg allows you to step up higher, roughly nipples even /w mast-top.
When I (180 Lbs) have to go up, I climb - and Maggie merely hoists the halyard along with me, securing it as I require rest or finaly top out.
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Old 08-02-2006, 13:05   #5
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I use rock clibing gear

I purchased a pair of ascenders and harness from and outdoor outfitter.



I ascend up the genoa halyard on my own making sure it is well tied off and secure. If someone else is available I'll have someone hoist up the spinnaker halyard as a safety line, but I feel comfortable with just the ascenders.

Using two ascenders one is hooked to the harness and the other to a foot strap. You lift yourself up with the foot starp, then raise the harness ascender. Sit down, then raise the foot strap. Then back to standing in the foot strap. And up you go.

Coming down is just the opposite unless you have an extra line, then you can rappel down using a figure 8 descender ring.

Life is so much EZer with the right equipment. Plus when you get to the top and stading in the foot strap, your head is above the masthead.

Here is a site that deminstrates a simular unit but not as safe as climbing gear.

http://www.bestmarineimports.com/Topclimber.html

Then there is this if you have the $$$$.

http://www.bestmarineimports.com/cgi...y.cgi?0X362960
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Old 08-02-2006, 14:14   #6
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Chicken option...

One could always pay the local rigger whatever he asks.
It may be worth the price.
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Old 08-02-2006, 14:32   #7
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Chris - true, but I need to develop this ability for myself. I still change my own oil since I hate to pay anyone to do what I know how...

Delmarrey - thanks for that info. I was curious if someone had pieced together a system like the top climber rig that is so expensive. Cheaper and better works for me
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Old 08-02-2006, 16:46   #8
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The second half of this discussion is - did you do what you could to avoid needing to go up the mast ? Extra halyards are awfully nice if you can fit 'em in.

Larry
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Old 08-02-2006, 17:11   #9
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I use a top climber. It is a set of stirups and a bosuns chair with acenders attached. It works great, and is a reasonable workout. It takes my 250 pounds to the masthead, and allows me to stand with the masthead at chest level making it easy to work. I have free climbed a 35' mizzen to catch a lost halyard, but I do not recommend it. I tried hauling my wife up (also 115 pounds but don't tell her I told you) I made the mistake of hauling her hand over hand, and by the time she got to the spreaders, she was so terrified that she refused to go up again. Oops!
When using the topclimber, I usually have the topping lift in hand and attached as a safety, but if you keep your lines in shape, it is unlikely you will ever have a failure.
Another nice thing about the topclimber is you are not running the halyard through the masthead, so when working with a seized masthead, it does not effect your ability to go aloft.
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Old 08-02-2006, 19:54   #10
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I hate heights...

To me climbing the mast is one of those things that I would do if I had to (in an emergency) but not normally. It is a dangerous activity.
I think that if you are scared of something then it is easy to forget a key element, or to make a big mistake.
To me, total confidence in my equipment and my ability would be essential for mast work and I would not have that confidence.
I am not aware of any set proceedure or protocol that can be followed, nor of any training course for mast climbing.
A professional, doing the same job every day, can do safely what I cannot.
When I did mast work I did it by getting a crane to pull the mast from the boat and to lay it on the dock. I have been amazed by the amount of work that suddenly needs doing to a mast when it is out of the boat.
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Old 08-02-2006, 20:21   #11
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There will come a time...
I have climbed many radio towers setting up antennas, and I do not like heights either, but I do what I have to do. I will say that clibling with the topclimber is as safe as you can get. I don't want to sound like a commercial, but this really is a safe way to go aloft.
Unlike being hauled up on a halyard, if you get shakey, you can stop and take a break for a while to reorient. Maybe I am cheap, but I could not bring myself to pay to unstep a mast to change my tricolor.
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Old 09-02-2006, 08:23   #12
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Safety harness?? Second halyard?? Safety tether?? Shackles lashed closed? Brakes on the halyard tail??

I never realized how dangerously I was living when I used to get cranked up the mast with just a halyard and a bosn's chair. I was usually the lightest-weight, so the "honor" was mine. It was a big luxury to have a flag halyard to run tools up and down on.

I'd just clomp my legs around the mast and hang on.

This was in harbor, though--at sea, we'd figure out some other way to do without whatever was broken until we made port.

I guess luck won out over safety.
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Old 09-02-2006, 08:37   #13
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Another suggestion for using climbing gear

Several rock climbers have suggested using a Gri-gri as the lower device rather than two Ascenders. The Gri-gri has a cam that will lock the halyard if you are not touching it--safety. To lower yourself: take the ascender off and hang it on your belt, use the Gri-gri lever system according to instructions to "slide" down the halyard at a speed of your choosing.

Many wall climbing facilities have switched to the Gri-gri for belaying a climber. A climbing wall facility is a good place to see this system in use. The "climbing junkies" who work at such facilities are usually more than willing to share their knowledge and with luck you may get to try your gear there.
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Old 09-02-2006, 09:21   #14
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Thumbs down Clips and shackles - who trusts them then?

We too do not rely on any safety line.

With my fear of heights I rarely lessen my grip on the mast going up, coming down, or when on station doing a job. Two legs and when possible two arms around the mast - clamped like Spiderman - works for me and the pain seems to take my mind of what I'm doing up there in the first place.

But seriously, I see suggestions for wrapping up clips etc.

I was always taught never to trust a shackle of clip for such climbing when you can easily tie the halyard to the chair or harness with a loop. A bowline will never open or break - the shackles or clips just might.

And if they did - I'm not too sure my Spideman grip would continue to give me comfort.........

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Old 09-02-2006, 11:35   #15
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Heights have never worried me and I love the view. I love every opportunity to go up the mast. I have not gone up in ruff sea yet, that is different. The issue is being tossed around like a rag doll up there and it can become very dangerouse.
But you can also become over careful. Hey Nolatom, what if the mast were to fall down I do second the lashing shackles however. Infact, as swagman has stated, don't rely on a shackle, use the bowline knot. It's safer.
Important point here. It is criticle that you are at ease up there. If you are holding onto the mast for dear life, then you are exhausting yourself. You can make mistakes. Ease up. Take your time, take in the view. Relax. If you relax, you think about what you are doing clearly. If something happens, you have no show of holding on to a mast, that's just a dream.
Practice. Go up the mast with every opportunity when in nice weather. Get easy with it. If you are a cruiser, there may come a time you have to go up there in an emergency and the idea of waiting to your next port is simply out of the question.
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