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Old 08-11-2007, 12:07   #1
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Installing Mast Steps (Folding vs Fixed)

I read a good piece on this in John Howard's book, but wanted to ask if anyone had recommendations on what style to get. Defender carries the folding ones for $16 (WM has them for $26 lol).

Mast step

A-Frame Mast Step

I think I like the folding ones a bit more, because the odds of fouling on them are so much less, but does anyone have any experience either way? Maybe I do some kind of combo, where I run the un folding ones to the spreaders, then folding above that?

I have a wooden spar, and need to give it some TLC. Mast steps seem to be the only way that I can reasonably and reliably get up there as often as I should.
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Old 08-11-2007, 12:10   #2
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Also, since I'm asking, with a wooden spar am I just using wood screws? Anything I should be bedding in there?
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Old 08-11-2007, 12:26   #3
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Aloha Rebel,
Wood screws are best. Bronze if you can get them unless you are attaching a stainless fitting then used stainless. It is best to use a bedding compound. Your choice. Even silicone is better than nothing. I do know that anything stuck to wood with 3M 5200 will tear away the wood before it lets go so that is not recommended in case you ever want to remove gear. I always used a bosun chair so don't have a mast step recommendation.
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Old 08-11-2007, 15:27   #4
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Hi,

The folding ones look slicker but can still flop open anyway when getting whipped around. The Aluminium A-section enclosed ones are more secure for your feet, expecially at the top where you are getting chucked about. Feet can be jammed in and not slide off sides. If you have a wire halyard on your main it can still get wrapped around the folders but not as much.

When using the mast steps, you have to remember to always keep tension on the halyard when dropping sails, and Prefereably store the sail end of the halyard looped uner a cleat on the underside of the boom, or if that is not possible (say due to a wire length not long enough) use a bit of light line with a clip on it to keep it away from the mast. That keeps the halyard off the mast and helps to avoid tangles. The A frame steps benefit from a bit of fishing line through the ends but it will break eventually and need replacement.
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Old 08-11-2007, 15:52   #5
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b&c-

That concept about putting some line between them was in John Howard's book as well. I see what you're saying about the a frames though. The folding and a frames are probably the same when you're climbing a 2x4 in the parking lot, but if you're getting smacked around in the water, the extra support might be nice.
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Old 08-11-2007, 16:56   #6
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We had stainless 'A' frame ones to the spreader and two near the mast head for working up there. Never had a problem with halyards fouling in two years of cruising. May be a different story with steps above the spreaders.

You really need the steps for sailing in the tropics. I was always at the spreaders with my wife steering when we were navigating through channels and inside atolls.

Aloha
Peter O.
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Old 08-11-2007, 17:35   #7
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My 30-foot Golden Gate had triangular mast steps mounted up to the peak with parachute cord run outboard of them to help with halyards fouling. I replaced the lower ones to about 6-feet off the deck with folding to keep a minimum of stuff to hit my head on! The triangulars are far more foot-secure. Tapped mounting holes would be most secure to a metal mast, avoide mounting with pop-rivets if you can but stainless, not alloy, if you do.
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Old 09-11-2007, 06:25   #8
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I bought some of the folding type just to install near the mast head and first spreader. I can't see how they would flop out. You have to lift up on the step to get it to fold out. I use a bosun chair to get up and down but wanted something sturdy to stand on at these locations. Mast is aluminum 55ft.
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Old 09-11-2007, 10:20   #9
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Mast steps...

I built (tied?) Hervey Garret Smith's "Rope ladder", which I hoist on the main halyard whenever I need to go aloft, and store in a mesh bag in the lazarette when I don't need it. Saves weight and windage aloft, and it doesn't cause issues with the running rigging under way.

That said, it's far from a perfect solution. There is stretch involved, so at the top there's a couple inches of sag in my footing. I use a harness tied with a rolling hitch to the fall of the halyard, maybe 12" from knot to D-rings, but I would far rather have a good bosun's rig (not a plank with 4 ropes attached.) I have used my set-up at anchor, but never underway; I am not sure I ever would unless it were a serious emergency. Also, it takes up a fair chunk of valuable lazarette stowage.

But that's also true of mast steps of any kind. You need a back-up harness with an extremely short tether to catch you if you slip. I read a second-hand report of a gentleman who slipped whilst climbing mast steps in a seaway, foot caught in the step and he was beaten to death against the mast. Several other reports of similar deaths with bosun's chairs. I don't know of any "safe" way to go up a mast under way, just more and less dangerous ways.

(My favourite method of going aloft is the mast tower at Point Roberts; a dock with a scaffolding tower beside with several decks on it allowing one to reach the masthead at most states of tide while effectively standing on terra firma.)
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Old 09-11-2007, 22:42   #10
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I have looked at the tower at PR but I don't think it goes high enough. I do enjoy a ride up the on the bosun's chair. Don't know if that would be too enjoyable in rough weather. Could be some deep finger imprints in the mast. I do believe in a back up system. My wife has only the use of one arm , but she still manages to get me up and down the mast without killing me, with the help of an electric self-tailing winch. Maybe I had better check on the clauses in my life insurance. LOL
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Old 09-11-2007, 23:55   #11
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I installed the ABI folding ones a few years ago. My wire halyards have gotten snagged on them a couple of times, once to the point of having to use them while underway to unsnag it. Not fun when singlehanding! A couple more issues I had with them: several times I've managed to accidentally fold up one of the ones below me while hauling stuff up with a line, and it's really difficult to get it back out with your foot. Also, the folding part has a bit of slop in it when it's deployed, just enough to let the skin between your thumb and forefinger get in there and then get pinched as you pull on it. Hurts like hell - and would hurt a lot more if you reflexively yanked your hand away while the other one was not holding on to something! If I had to do it again, I think I would use triangular ones below the spreaders.
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Old 10-11-2007, 00:03   #12
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I installed the ABI folding ones a few years ago. My wire halyards have gotten snagged on them a couple of times, once to the point of having to use them while underway to unsnag it. Not fun when singlehanding! A couple more issues I had with them: several times I've managed to accidentally fold up one of the ones below me while hauling stuff up with a line, and it's really difficult to get it back out with your foot. Also, the folding part has a bit of slop in it when it's deployed, just enough to let the skin between your thumb and forefinger get in there and then get pinched as you pull on it. Hurts like hell - and would hurt a lot more if you reflexively yanked your hand away while the other one was not holding on to something! If I had to do it again, I think I would use triangular ones below the spreaders.
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Old 10-11-2007, 00:54   #13
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I have the folding ones all the way to the top of the mast, with a double set at the mast top. I use a tree climbers harness that has a bum belt built in as well as crutch straps which makes it very secure. Using a strop around the mast, I climb up, folding out the steps and lifting the strop over them. This means that I can only fall a couple of inches. Coming down i reverse the procedure. Nice and safe while under way. It may sound crazy, but standing at the top of your mast while under sail on a nice day is fabulous fun !! A blob of scilicone in the right spot on the cast folding type helps stop them from rattling open. I do catch halyards on them from time to time, but my mast has no internal runs so there is 6 halyards on the outside (meaning 6 rope and 6 wire falls) so I guess its inevitable. My new boats mast has the runs on the inside. I still dont know which way I will go (fixed or folding) on the new mast, but I do know that I will have a full set from top to bottom. Having somthing to put your feet on as opposed to swinging wildly around the mast every time the boat rises to a swell.......lets just say guys become accutely aware of their testicles......
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Old 10-11-2007, 01:22   #14
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Amgine
I have looked at the tower at PR but I don't think it goes high enough.
I think it will cover up to 50' plus a bit on a spring low. The folks at the shop have the exact numbers. Not the largest range, and I'm sure there are others in the region which can cover bigger sticks.
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Old 10-11-2007, 03:48   #15
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Amigine

I am 60 ft water to masthead. I haven't tried it but have eyed it up. But then all the fun of banging the family jewels against the mast using a bosuns chair would be gone. LOL
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