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Old 25-05-2015, 19:08   #1
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Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

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?
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Old 25-05-2015, 19:34   #2
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

How is the Spin Halyard attached. Does it go into the mast through a sheave? Or is it simply run through a block that is shackled to the mast head. If it is the latter don't even think about it. We will be reading about a dead forum member. Even with an ATN climber, for safety you should have a spotter. Use the main halyard for the ATN and tie yourself onto the jib halyard. Have the spotter take up the slack on the way up.

It should not be a problem to reach the front of the mast.
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Old 25-05-2015, 19:39   #3
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

Usually a spin halyard exits the top of the mast heading upwards to a block suspended from a bail mounted on the front of the masthead. Using a spin halyard to support yourself up the mast is frowned upon because the failure of any one of a number of components will drop you a significant distance. Use a jib halyard instead, and the main halyard as a backup.
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Old 25-05-2015, 19:46   #4
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

It's not clear if you will be alone (on the mast climber) or with a helper. You should avoid trying it alone. Your boat is a modest size, so the masthead sheaves and blocks will be on the small side. I always use a double system, with bosun's chair on main halyard and a full body harness on a separate line (spin halyard) because I'm scared of heights and this makes me feel a lot safer.


You should not worry too much about servicing the steaming light whilst supported on the main halyard. I've always found it necessary, and safe, to swing around the mast 180deg, though you obviously need to brace yourself against shrouds to stay in the right place..


If your spinnaker halyard runs internally in the mast, then the only risk is that the halyard jumps off the sheave, or the sheave bearing fails, and you are left hanging there. But it's possible your halyard is external, running through a regular single block. You should be able to see this. If there's an external block, you should not rely on it, at least until you've been up there and checked its condition.
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Old 25-05-2015, 19:51   #5
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandy stone View Post
Usually a spin halyard exits the top of the mast heading upwards to a block suspended from a bail mounted on the front of the masthead. Using a spin halyard to support yourself up the mast is frowned upon because the failure of any one of a number of components will drop you a significant distance. Use a jib halyard instead, and the main halyard as a backup.
Agree, You can climb on any halyard but always double-up in case of mechanical failure. At least one line should be a top exiting main or jib. We also insist the shackle release is duct-taped to prevent any chance of opening. When you get there, inspect the hardware. You might be surprised.

Suggest that for an older Hunter 27, you might want to pull the mast & inspect a lot of stuff from the convenience of Earth. Can't cost much to set it down.
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Old 25-05-2015, 20:10   #6
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

I never trust the knot / splice or clip on a halyard. Tie a bowline + 2 half hitches or alternatively a double-8 instead.
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Old 25-05-2015, 20:45   #7
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

I never use the spinaker halyard , even if it exit in a slot several inches from the top block, use the main halyard instead, in my bosun chair i have 2 safety lines rigged in the chair, both with locking carabiner shackles, one to hold my position in the mast, and the other as a safety line...if you never feel before a spinaker block shackle failure i sugest you use the main or a internal halyard running trough the mast head sheaves... just for safety,
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Old 26-05-2015, 06:28   #8
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

Thanks for all the info everyone. Will likely use the main and the jib halyard as a safety.
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Old 26-05-2015, 09:18   #9
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

Quote:
Originally Posted by umphrey1012 View Post
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. Is there a different/better way to do this?
I have the same climber and have been up my mast several times. I replaced the spinnaker halyard pulley on my first trip up with the main halyard and I always use it now to go up. BUT most importantly I clip on the main halyard and have someone take up the slack and cleat off as I go up. Make sure you have a back up system especially if you are going up on an unknown pulley, etc.

I found that going up is much easier than coming down with the ATN climber. Make sure you take your time and go slow. I can't say enough- have a back-up halyard attached and have someone take up the slack AND CLEAT IT OFF as you go up. That way you will only fall so far if the main attach point let's go. Use the bag from the ATN climber for tools, phone, etc. Call the person on your cell phone before you go up and put on speaker. It's better than yelling.

One more thing - wear shoes and long pants (no flip-flops). The climber digs in pretty good on your legs and feet.

Good luck!


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Old 26-05-2015, 09:58   #10
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

ABSOLUTELY NEVER ON AN EXTERNAL SPINNAKER HALYARD !!! External halyards are generally run through a block (as mentioned by prior poster and a possible failure point) and the block is hung on a spinnaker crane (often a tang made of flat plate and attached to the mast head casting atop the mast) and not designed for a large vertical / down load. Best case, the tang will bend, worst case its fasteners could be pulled out of the mast head casting. ALWAYS use an internal (inside the mast) halyard when climbing the mast or hoisting heavy objects (such as a RIB) onto the foredeck. IMHO, YMMV. Alan
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Old 26-05-2015, 10:10   #11
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

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.
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Old 26-05-2015, 10:31   #12
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandy stone View Post
Usually a spin halyard exits the top of the mast heading upwards to a block suspended from a bail mounted on the front of the masthead. Using a spin halyard to support yourself up the mast is frowned upon because the failure of any one of a number of components will drop you a significant distance. Use a jib halyard instead, and the main halyard as a backup.
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
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Old 26-05-2015, 10:35   #13
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

One comment regarding the ATN Mastclimber - don't get greedy with each reposition of the climbers. I find that if I take more than 6"-8", I'm unable to take the weight off the other climber. This is more a problem on the way down and has to do with the stretch in the line. Smaller bites is better.

Good points on using the spin halyard - I will have to reconsider which line I use next time up the mast!
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Old 26-05-2015, 10:48   #14
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

I also take one of the webbing straps meant hor harnes-to-jackline and wrap it twice around the mast. While my wife hauls me up the mast I slide the strap up. At the spreaders we stop so I can unwrap the strap and re-wrap above the spreaders. As long as there's no load on the strap it slides up or down the mast with ease. But it will easily hold my 240# if I start to fall. I know it will work because one time the mast winch came apart and I fell about a foot until the strap stopped me.
And Kellyp, you'r just a young thing. I'm 80 (but I haven't gone up thwe mast in about 2 years).
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Old 26-05-2015, 12:07   #15
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Re: Climbing the mast on the spinnaker halyard?

You folks might mention how often you go to the top of a mast when advising people how to do it. Many people fear going aloft, and because of it do not do it often and load up on “safety” gear, just as many folks do when they are planning to go to sea. If you need all this sense of security, then go right ahead, but you really do not need it to get the job done. Keep it simple, use bowlines, (and a halyard stopper is a handy backup). I have seen people up masts with multiple halyards, life vests, and even bike helmets on. It is not a carnival ride, you are up there to do work and enjoy the scenery.

Look at the racers out there, light spindly rigging, small blocks and light halyards. They nearly always go up on a spinnaker halyard. They do it all the time UNDERWAY and you never hear of them falling. But they know their gear and know what they are doing.

Spinnaker halyards are fine if they are internal; if a block failed it would only drop you a meter at the most. You gotta trust your gear, if you are not familiar with what is up the spar, a second line is a good safety, if you have not had the winch apart in six months, well it is time service it. Going aloft is not a big deal once you get familiar with it.

By the way, I probably go up my mast at least once a month (probably a dozen times so far this year) and most times on a spinnaker halyard.

Enjoy life, don’t fear it.
Michael
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