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Old 26-05-2015, 12:46   #16
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

I tend to look at falls differently than most. The analysis of a fall and the parts of the system that failed is just part of what climber do. The goal is to remove as many single points of failure as is reasonable. no fear is involved, just risk reduction.

There are three parts to a fall - First you come off, then gravity pulls you down, then you hit something. If you focus on #1 you don't have to deal with #3....

Folks who go up their masts all the time are typically doing so on well inspected fittings and lines. This inspection greatly reduces the chance of a failure (that invokes #1, coming off).

An infrequently (or never) inspected external spinnaker halyard has at least 4 single points of failure. The Halyard itself, the block, the shackle and the tang. The failure of anyone of these results in a total system failure and the resulting hitting of the deck (Invoke # 3).

Using an internal spinnaker halyard removed all the single points of failure except for the halyard itself. And using a safety line to another halyard or wrapped around the mast removes the halyard as a single point of failure.

I should add that climbing ropes typically do not break, they are cut. That is to say that they fail where they go over a sharp (does not need to be very sharp) edge. Part of this is due to the design of the climbing rope (which makes them unsuited for anchor line use). translate this to halyards by thinking about where halyard comes out of the mast at the mast head. How sharp would that be when the halyard is bend 180 degrees.

Main or jib halyards have sheeves to rotating around thus removing the 180 bend on a potentially sharp edge.
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Old 26-05-2015, 12:57   #17
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

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Originally Posted by kellyp08 View Post
I have used the ATN many times on my Hinckley SW50 yawl. I have a special line which has just the correct width for the Top Climber hardware. I secure the line to the spinnaker halyard (which is too thick for the hardware), take the special line aloft and secure the bottom end of the special line with some tension (otherwise you'll be flapping all over the place). Then (most importantly), I have a 8 foot length of half inch line with which I make a "Prusik Knot" around the rope of the main halyard. I tie the bitter ends of this line to my belt. The Prusik Knot allows you to advance the hitch part as you go up, but it will tighten and secure your position should you suddenly fall; take the load off and it easily will slide up or down your safety line. The rest is clearly illustrated in the documentation of the ATN. I rarely have a "spotter" and usually go to the masthead or anywhere in between, alone. BTW - I'm no kid; I'm 73 years old! If I can do it - you can do it. I suggest that you do a few climbs just for "fun" so that you acquaint yourself with the technique and hardware.
Lots of good info here. I have the same system, have used it a dozen times, but always have a person available to help. I use a dedicated, correct-diameter line as well. It is used for nothing else, and is stored with the climber in a dry location when not in use. You will find that you want this line pretty tight, so we run thru a block on the deck. As I usually have a helper, I can use a second halyard as a safety line that gets snugged up occasionally. After a few times, the climbing becomes easier as you get to know how big of a "step" to take each time. Coming down is more difficult - to me. As I usually have a helper, instead of climbing down they usually just lower me via the halyard and a winch. Much less work.
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Old 26-05-2015, 13:48   #18
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

I have used my top climber several times on my as well as other boats, but always check the condition of the halyard that you are using before going up....
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Old 26-05-2015, 13:55   #19
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

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Originally Posted by evm1024 View Post
A super big +1

As a climber (as well as a sailor) I would never use the spinnaker halyard. And also never use any single system.

Actually I tie a climbing rope to the main halyard directly (for wire directly into the eye) raise it to the masthead then use jumars to ascend the climbing rope. I also have a prusic on the other halyard as a safety.

You can get to any side of the mast from either halyard.

Of course I rappel down the climbing rope when done.

If nothing else you can girth hitch the mast with some webbing as a safety backup (take 2 so that you can pass spreaders etc).

All this is a bit overkill and technical for non climbers but rather normal for climbers - somewhat second nature.

The takehome is: a) use an inspected halyard (except the spinnaker halyard), 2) have a backup system (no single point of failure).

Regards
I'm an ex-climber and frequently climb my main halyard using prussiks (the poor man's version of the ATN climber).

I wouldn't want to use a separate climbing rope since climbing ropes are dynamic, whereas a halyard is static. You're going to get a lot more stretch out of the climbing rope. You've also introduced a new failure point in the knot between the two ropes (though that's pretty low risk).

Also, I like to attach the halyard to the base of the mast and tension it up with a winch before climbing. This keeps the bounce down and keeps me from swinging around too much on the way up.

I use no secondary safety as I feel that I have sufficient redundancy in the two prussiks (both attached to the harness). The halyard just isn't going to break under body weight.

I do wear a helmet.

If you're doing the climbing yourself (as the OP is) and you're at all nervous, then having somebody back you up with another halyard around a winch is a great safety.

If you're having somebody winch you up, then you need to have a second person handle the safety or do it yourself with a prussik. Otherwise, they're likely to drop you due to the complexity of running the primary and secondary systems simultaneously.

I wouldn't hesitate to climb an internal spinnaker halyard, but would never touch an external one.
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Old 26-05-2015, 14:28   #20
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

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Originally Posted by cwyckham View Post
I wouldn't want to use a separate climbing rope since climbing ropes are dynamic, whereas a halyard is static. You're going to get a lot more stretch out of the climbing rope. You've also introduced a new failure point in the knot between the two ropes (though that's pretty low risk).

Also, I like to attach the halyard to the base of the mast and tension it up with a winch before climbing. This keeps the bounce down and keeps me from swinging around too much on the way up.
The original (older) ATN MastClimbers could not be fit over an existing halyard. The new ones have opening to allow that. Not sure if I prefer that or the captive older version, but either way you couldn't use an existing halyard unless it didn't have a shackle on the end, or you were climbing the tail (no-no). As such, what ATN advised at the time was to use a dedicated rope, rather than finding a spare line in the locker to use. And as you said, it needs to be tensioned, but not completely taught. We have a low-stretch rope that works well.
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Old 26-05-2015, 15:01   #21
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

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Originally Posted by evm1024 View Post
A super big +1

As a climber (as well as a sailor) I would never use the spinnaker halyard. And also never use any single system.

Actually I tie a climbing rope to the main halyard directly (for wire directly into the eye) raise it to the masthead then use jumars to ascend the climbing rope. I also have a prusic on the other halyard as a safety.

You can get to any side of the mast from either halyard.

Of course I rappel down the climbing rope when done.

If nothing else you can girth hitch the mast with some webbing as a safety backup (take 2 so that you can pass spreaders etc).

All this is a bit overkill and technical for non climbers but rather normal for climbers - somewhat second nature.

The takehome is: a) use an inspected halyard (except the spinnaker halyard), 2) have a backup system (no single point of failure).

Regards
evm, i am planning setup just as you described. as my main halyard is double, will use topper to hoist climbing rope and have 2 independent prussics on main halyard. Even 2x failures, i will be able to get down by myself.

question : what technique do you use to get down ? What is "rappel down" ?
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Old 26-05-2015, 15:29   #22
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

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Originally Posted by arsenelupiga View Post
evm, i am planning setup just as you described. as my main halyard is double, will use topper to hoist climbing rope and have 2 independent prussics on main halyard. Even 2x failures, i will be able to get down by myself.

question : what technique do you use to get down ? What is "rappel down" ?
Rappel is the North American term for abseil. To slide down a rope using a friction device.

Note that the rope you are abseiling down on must be loose at the bottom. It's much easier to climb a mast on a rope that is attached at the bottom and tensioned (you don't flop around so much).

As I said above, you can use a dedicated rope if you really want, but a halyard is low stretch, so it's easier to climb than a bouncy climbing rope.

If you've never abseiled before, I'd get specific training from somebody who knows what they're doing. A high percentage of climbing accidents are rappel accidents.

If you let go with your brake hand because you're swinging towards the mast or your foot slips off, you will plummet. You should either use a prussik back-up or have somebody below you holding the rope. If you let go with your brake hand, they can simply yank on the rope and stop you.

You need to be in your spotter's good graces, because they can also just tension the rope and tie it off. You'll be stuck there for a good long time.
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Old 26-05-2015, 16:02   #23
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

What about using the topping lift?
I have an inmast furling system which means you can not easily use the main halyard.
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Old 26-05-2015, 16:10   #24
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

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Originally Posted by cwyckham View Post
Rappel is the North American term for abseil. To slide down a rope using a friction device.

Note that the rope you are abseiling down on must be loose at the bottom. It's much easier to climb a mast on a rope that is attached at the bottom and tensioned (you don't flop around so much).

As I said above, you can use a dedicated rope if you really want, but a halyard is low stretch, so it's easier to climb than a bouncy climbing rope.

If you've never abseiled before, I'd get specific training from somebody who knows what they're doing. A high percentage of climbing accidents are rappel accidents.

If you let go with your brake hand because you're swinging towards the mast or your foot slips off, you will plummet. You should either use a prussik back-up or have somebody below you holding the rope. If you let go with your brake hand, they can simply yank on the rope and stop you.

You need to be in your spotter's good graces, because they can also just tension the rope and tie it off. You'll be stuck there for a good long time.

i see. Not for me. I will have to handle 2 prussics when descending also. I plan to go slow way, basically reverse of going up.

Move up in 1 go, and then work while slowly down the mast.
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Old 26-05-2015, 18:32   #25
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

Have gone up on spin halyard (with external block) many times in bosuns chair but have safety line/halyard as described in other posts. My suggestion is bounce in the chair whilst hanging from the halyard when you can stand on the deck as the shock load will be a lot higher than the static load as a crude test of your un-inspected gear. On a 27ft boat the spinnaker would put a lot higher load on the gear than your body weight but of course if it hasnt been used for a long time it may have deteriorated.
Just my 10c worth
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Old 26-05-2015, 21:45   #26
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

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Hi all, new boat owner and I've got a few tasks that require me to go up the mast (install radar reflector, attach flag halyard and replace steaming light).

I picked up the ATN Mastclimber | Single Handed Bosun Chair | Climbing the Mast which seems very sturdy and I like. Because of the steaming light work, I need to be on the front side of the mast which means using the spinnaker halyard to go up. I sat in the harness on the line about 5 feet off the deck the other day and it was holding my weight fine. Logically, I know that if it holds me at 5 ft, it'll hold me at 25, but just wanted to verify. I don't know what the spinnaker attachment looks like at the top of the mast. Is it different than the main halyard? Are the forces from the spinnaker way more than my weight and so it should be fine? Is there a different/better way to do this?
If you dont know its integrity id use a safety line.

I refuse to climb with only one line.

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Old 26-05-2015, 23:14   #27
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

The spinnaker halyard and hardware can no doubt hold at least 4 times your weight - but why not use the jib halyard as the primary? And if you have a crew to help, have him or her back you up with the spinnaker halyard led to it's winch, while you climb the jib halyard.
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Old 27-05-2015, 22:04   #28
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

Orignal question was very timely for me as I need to do an inspection on mast blocks and lines. All the answers were very very informative and a great help to me. Thanks to every one for good positive input.
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Old 11-06-2015, 21:02   #29
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

In my case, my main, headsail & spare halyards are all wire to rope that are terminated with snap shackles. Thought about converting to all rope but I believe it would be incompatible with my masthead sheaves and the definitive answer to that issue seems elusive. I also have the ATN with a dedicated line, but not wild about using wire rope and snap shackles. So instead, I routinely go up on the internal spinnaker halyard which is relatively new and in good condition. As is the bail & block at the masthead, as far as I can tell. With a good, internally run halyard & two secure fastening points on the ATN, I've never used a safety line. Maybe foolhardy, not really sure.

Anyway, one of my questions is how successful you ATN guys are with getting yourself close enough to the masthead to be able to actually reach over and work on the top of the mast. The ATN guy makes it look easy in the pics, but I've always had trouble pulling it off. Not inclined to install permanently affixed steps, and don't have much expertise rigging up soft steps to get up there. Any ideas?
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Old 12-06-2015, 01:09   #30
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

Have been sailing with tied on rope halyards for many decades and many many thousands of miles with the dual purpose sheaves at the mast head. Those are the ones with an outer rope sheave and an inner groove for wire. Current boat had wire halyards for nearly 40 years and had no problems converting to rope. Have never had an issue with wear on the halyard at the sheaves. Will bet if you look at your mast head sheaves, that they are these dual purpose sheaves. Ditch the wire halyards and metal shackles and go with Vectran/Dyneema halyards tied on with Buntline hitch or bowline.

There are two rings on the Top climber seat webbing where you attach the climbing hard ware. Move the ascender from the top ring to the lowest ring and you'll be able to get above the mast head. Climbing takes longer with the ascender shackled to the lower ring because of the shortened travel but gets you above the mast head. Only took me a couple of years and many trips up the mast to figure that out.

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Thought about converting to all rope but I believe it would be incompatible with my masthead sheaves and the definitive answer to that issue seems elusive.

Anyway, one of my questions is how successful you ATN guys are with getting yourself close enough to the masthead to be able to actually reach over and work on the top of the mast. Any ideas?
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