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Old 22-08-2014, 15:05   #46
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Re: Going up the Mast

I went up my mast for the first time last month. I had read other threads here and did my homework, plus paid close attention when professional riggers went up. I used my spinnaker halyard which has a snap shackle on it (like most). I took one look at that and remembered the snap is made to release under pressure so if anything caught on the little lanyard it would open. I never even started to think the metal could fail as stated earlier in this thread. So I passed the snap shackle through the loop on my harness, tied a bowline, and then also clipped it on. The pros do exactly the same thing on my boat.

My wife manned the electric winch and we did several low altitude runs first. She did not use the self-tailing pawls on the winch but hand tailed in case the winch decided not to stop turning (I've read of this hazard). I did not use a safety line but did focus all the way up on having my hands on a stay to arrest my fall if needed. There's never a spot or need to be free floating. I had a ~six foot rope tied on my harness so when I got to the top I could secure myself up there just in case, and my wife could relax. Also, once up she locked the line in the pawls, but also to a cleat. Overall I felt good about it.

One thing we did that I think made a huge difference was we wore hands-free radios. This let us converse easily throughout the process with no yelling or informing everyone in the marina of our chores. Also I was up there working on our wifi antenna and I could talk with her about the results on the laptop in the cabin, including changing configs. It's so much more relaxing to use these radios while mooring/anchoring, and now even more useful when going aloft.
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Old 22-08-2014, 16:22   #47
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Re: Going up the Mast

jr_spyder,

Right on about the hands free radio. You can speak softly, your partner can hear, and ours work even if I have to go below to throw switches or *whatever*. We use them a lot, although for anchoring, we have hand signals. Our walkie-talkies are not waterproof.

Ann
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Old 22-08-2014, 17:09   #48
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Re: Going up the Mast

Cool idea on the radios.

I used to a lot of climbing and have done some high angle rescue training, etc. I have a different take on this than many of the posters here.

First, I would be nervous about having somebody winch me up and would want to have a safety. However, I would never, ever make that safety another winch that the same person is also handling! This would decrease my safety, not increase it. The poor person down below is sure to fumble something while changing from one winch to the other. Once I start to fall, I'll accelerate so fast that they won't be able to arrest me without severe burns. If somebody is "belaying" me on a winch, they need to have a hand on the rope at all times, they can't also be winching me up on another winch.

If you want to be raised up on a winch by somebody, then I'd recommend fixing another halyard to the deck, winching it tight, and using a prussik or an ascender on it. That way you are in charge. Or you can have two people on deck, one doing nothing but safety, or you can even ascend under your own power and have somebody on deck doing nothing but watching your safety line.

Now for the no doubt controversial part: I don't use a safety line at all. I ascend a halyard on prussiks. It's an internal halyard, so the only way I can fall is if the halyard comes undone (I have double redundancy on fixing the end), or the halyard breaks (never going to happen other than from chafe, and it's always the end of the halyard near the mainsail head that chafes and you'd see it), or one of my prussiks lets go. So I attach both prussiks to my harness with locking caribiners. Either prussik can take a hundred times my body weight.

I think that this method may sound more dangerous than what people do, but is actually much safer since it eliminates most potential for human error. It's just me up there and I'm only moving one prussik at a time.
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Old 22-08-2014, 17:21   #49
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Re: Going up the Mast

Good post, cwyck. And I agree with your safety analysis, fwiw. I just realized that I haven't mentioned one of the few "safety" dodges that we use, and that I think quite important: We always have the active halyard going through a rope clutch above the winch. This means that if the wincher (my Admiral Ann in my case, whom I trust literally with my life) looses control of the halyard, nothing happens other than a drop of an inch or so. If one follows this practice, it means that if your sensibilities require it, one person can both tend a safety line and do the winching with less of the risk mentioned in the above post.

Using an ascender on a separate halyard for a safety is way better than a second active halyard IMO, if you feel such to be necessary.

Cheers,

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Old 22-08-2014, 17:27   #50
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Re: Going up the Mast

I use the mountain climbing approach (ascender and grigri) when single handing, but when Beth is on board we use the drum on the electric windless with the halyard led thru a closed clutch (as jim suggests above). I personally believe there is some safety merit in getting up (and down) quickly.

A powered self tailing winch adds some (I believe small) risk of jamming "on", but the (non-self tailing) windless drum does not have that risk because if Beth just let's go, the windless is no longer driving the rope while I am still held by the clutch.
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Old 22-08-2014, 17:39   #51
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Re: Going up the Mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by jr_spyder View Post
My wife manned the electric winch and we did several low altitude runs first. She did not use the self-tailing pawls on the winch but hand tailed in case the winch decided not to stop turning (I've read of this hazard)
I've read this thread with interest, as I am due to head up mast for the first time soon. I have asked the assistance of club member who does this for a living, to help me get setup right, and he will go up first just to make sure.

But the electric winch thing gives me the heebies. It's probably irrational, but after reading of the poor lady who lost an arm (or was it fingers) and the damage to the good Samaritan who came to her assistance when the electric winch jammed on while winching her husband up the mast, I vowed I would never have an electric winch on the boat. (I should add that our boat is small enough that electric winches are not needed to handle anything but the anchor, which helps.)

And though I can see how hand tailing will help, I have sometimes had winches snare on the incoming line and ended up having a hell of a time untangling them. On the HIGHLY unlikely case of an electric winch jamming in the on mode, I feel the chance of one of these snares occurring would be reasonably high, particularly in the flurry to release lines or if there was any sudden change in tension brought about by the person on the mast. If this were to occur, the hand tailing would be of no assistance and the predicament of the lady previously mentioned would be recreated.

Just a thought, paranoid perhaps, but I just got all uncomfortable with the idea. I still feel quite ill when I think of the article I read on the incident.

Matt
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Old 22-08-2014, 17:54   #52
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Re: Going up the Mast

Jim and Evans, yes a clutch is a significant safety enhancement

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Old 22-08-2014, 18:10   #53
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Re: Going up the Mast

Until fairly recently we have also used the drum on the vertical windlass to power me up the mast, and it always worked well, just as Evans has described. It was a bit awkward when it came time to come down. Ann had to come back from the foredeck to the mast, put the halyard (now belayed by the clutch and me holding on or standing in the masthead steps) on to a winch and then releasing the clutch. Worked, but awkward. Then we bought one of the much discussed Milwaukee drill/drives, and now use it on the main halyard winch. Seems to have plenty of power and battery capacity, is easy for her to control, and keeps her in one place for all operations. It does not have the same hazards as a real electric winch, since should it stick in the on mode she could simply remove it from the winch (there's a different approach for you, Matt!).

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Old 22-08-2014, 18:20   #54
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Re: Going up the Mast

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Then we bought one of the much discussed Milwaukee drill/drives, and now use it on the main halyard winch. Seems to have plenty of power and battery capacity, is easy for her to control, and keeps her in one place for all operations. It does not have the same hazards as a real electric winch, since should it stick in the on mode she could simply remove it from the winch (there's a different approach for you, Matt!).

Jim
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Old 22-08-2014, 18:23   #55
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Re: Going up the Mast

Actually, reading through all this again, it occurs to me that one of the first things I should take up the mast with me is a pair of steps and the tools required to attach them safely.

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Old 22-08-2014, 18:53   #56
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Re: Going up the Mast

Yup, we use the rope clutch on the halyard too.

It's funny to me that one else has mentioned that there's lots of stuff to hold on to on the way up/down. The stays, spreaders, radar mount, spin pole mounts, other external halyards, etc. It's like rock climbing where you can almost always have three connections to the rock face. It wouldn't be pretty but I feel pretty comfortable that I could slow or stop my unexpected decent in a very short distance if my hoisting line gave way. It's just a matter of thinking it though hand-hold by hand-hold. Of course I hope it never happens, but it's one more margin of safety if you stay focused.

I should mention that my stays are rods, so easy enough to get a grip and slide down in control if needed, albeit with sore hands later.
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Old 22-08-2014, 19:50   #57
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Re: Going up the Mast

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Originally Posted by neilsty View Post
Do you use electric winches to ascend? I thought that had been a couple of bad accidents - someone with a broken pelvis due to the winch keeping running, and another person losing a lot of fingers. I know the electric winch makes it a lot easier, but there appear to be some serious downsides. May be OK if you have two people, one on the electric winch and another on a back up so you can let the halyard off the electric winch if needed. Any comments?
I always use the electric Lewmar 65. We keep the Milwaukee 1/2" right angle drive with the winch bit at the ready. 80 feet is too far to hand crank. You must have line of sight at all times. Sometimes I go up but Lynn prefers to go up and have me run the deck. I rebuilt all of the winches. They are solid & the big one is three speed. Winches & lines on this boat are monster. Shackles are 5-1/2 inches long & I have replaced the pins. (nice to have your own machine shop). The rig will fall before these items break. We also use two halyards with tape on the shackles.
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Old 22-08-2014, 19:54   #58
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Re: Going up the Mast

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Originally Posted by jr_spyder View Post
Yup, we use the rope clutch on the halyard too.

It's funny to me that one else has mentioned that there's lots of stuff to hold on to on the way up/down. The stays, spreaders, radar mount, spin pole mounts, other external halyards, etc. It's like rock climbing where you can almost always have three connections to the rock face. It wouldn't be pretty but I feel pretty comfortable that I could slow or stop my unexpected decent in a very short distance if my hoisting line gave way. It's just a matter of thinking it though hand-hold by hand-hold. Of course I hope it never happens, but it's one more margin of safety if you stay focused.

I should mention that my stays are rods, so easy enough to get a grip and slide down in control if needed, albeit with sore hands later.
SO true. Our stays are cable but 3/4 inch so grip is easy. I always try to assist the lift by pulling & hanging on or climbing. When I raced in my 20's we used to free climb usinng a hand full of halyards. It was fun to ride the upper spreaders back to the marina with the kite up & peaceful seas.
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Old 23-08-2014, 05:49   #59
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Re: Going up the Mast

This is the light I used. Tri color, anchor, and strobe. Takes three wires. A little pricy but built super solid to mil spec standard. OGM. Easy to mount.

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Old 24-08-2014, 02:01   #60
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Re: Going up the Mast

My rig' kinda old school, but hey, it works... so I leave it alone. And also it’s designed so that me going up a rig as a 1 man show is still a no brainer AND safe. Keeping in mind that in addition to my boat(s) over the years, I've been the BMW on several Large of racers. And as such have had plenty of occasion (and the capability) to go up 100' sticks solo… for most kinds of jobs which you can name. Which is reflected in the following list/description.

1st off, Primarily I run a 6:1 purchase (or needs be 5:1) with a triple with a ratchet block on one end, & the ratchet can be switched on/off @ the lower end. Fitted with 600’ of 7/16" Regatta Braid led through this setup. The size is good grip wise, runs freely through my blocks, & doesn't induce a hernia when I lift the whole rig in it’s duffle.

The block's shackles are Loctited & safety wired (with Spectra thread, & Stainless Steel Wire). And I tie off the upper end to a halyard with a bowline. In a place of the line where there’s NO splice (even in the core).

For a safety, I tie in a single, oversized, block with a ratchet, again to a halyard. Through which is run a piece of colored line, such that neither I nor anyone on deck could ever get my lines confused.

Said safety line gets tied to my harness at the one end, through an auto locking, screw gate, carabiner which runs thru my harnesses belt.

As to my "chair", it's a customized climber's harness with a few extra security attachments, in addition to pockets & lanyards for gear. Plus a bit of added extra padding in/on the waist belt, & thighs. A NICE to have item if you’re up there for half of the day.
On one side, I have a sheath/holster for; a customized Crescent Wrench which has a LOOONG Marling spike welded to & integrally serving as the wrench’s butt end. Also, said spike is drilled for and fitted with a lanyard. Next to it, in the same custom sheath is a pair of Large semi-needle nose Vice Grips: Again, with a phone-cord type lanyard.
On the other side of the harness is a sheath for several screwdrivers, especially BIG ones, in addition to one or two standard sized one(s) with various swap out tip type bits (again, on lanyards). Plus a splicing wand http://www.briontoss.com/catalog/splicinggear.html
… And a spare “McGuyver” ‘Type’ PocketJ. Commonly used to hold some of the following (depending on my “mission”);
a headlamp type flashlight, a Makita screw gun/drill – with drill bits & driver tips (plus small bolts to tap into sheaves), a tube of Loctite and or Never-Seize, spare cordage (both large & small diameter), seizing wire (often enough Stainless, & or Spectra for seizing spreader tips), a small container of various sizes & types of screws + bolts (don’t you just HATE it when you work & sweat HARD to get up there, & then drop the one fastener which you have that you need), spare bulbs for the spreader lights, steaming light, & or tricolor), a tube of tef-gel www.tef-gel.com , a masthead instrument wand, combo wire stripper/crimpers, micro torch, a rag (possibly with cleaning agent, or Flitz metal polish, small camera, halyard pre-feeding line/kit, self-amalgamating rigging tape, friction & duct tape, serving/parceling line, sand paper & or small files, etc., etc.
AND, a water bottle, plus possibly a few cocktails in a can too.

NOTE: They’re not listed specifically, as when I’m onboard a vessel, I ALWAYS carry; 2 folding rigging knives (minimum, with 1+ of them on lanyards), a marling spike with built in shackle key, a kite fid, & a small Mini-Mag flashlight or similar.

A few other KEY mods to my chair;
I always have an extra carabiner (often 3 actually), one of which has 2 adjustable for length webbing foot loops. And given that this carabiner is movable, along with the adjustability of the loops, I can set things up, once I get to the masthead, so that I can standup (still in the chair) so that I can see and or work on things, literally on the top of a spar.
Spare buckles for every connection on said chair are kept in my rig climbing kit. As is a small sewing kit, with various sizes of needles, a sail maker’s palm, pliers, spectra thread, extra webbing. Spare cotter, clevis, ring, & split pins of various sizes. A soft canvas or standard bucket, & a messenger line for same, long enough to reach the deck.

If you've got plenty of crew, just tie your chair into one halyard, & lead it back to a primary winch. With the caveat of a safety as mentioned above. And have them grind you up, in high gear.

Also, if you use your anchor windlass, the setup's more or less the same as above, with plenty of crew. Albeit make sure that the man on the windlass is a cool hand, & knows just to keep only enough tension on the hoist line so that it keeps you in place up the spar, but otherwise spins freely, if the windlass gets stuck in the "On" position.
Nothing fancy, just requires a cool hand/head. But it's worth having a chat with them prior to "suiting up".
NOTE: I'd be far more leery of doing this on a powered self-tailing winch, as errors with one of those could get far more dangerous, a lot more quickly, if the winch operator isn't quick on his feet so to speak.
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