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Old 29-11-2021, 18:00   #1
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Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

Had to go aloft to work on the wind-vane/windex and to replace the anchor light bulb with an LED one.

First of all - totally doable, not too difficult. I've used a climbing harness (have done rock-climbing for several years when I was younger). Must have two separate lines (one for climbing and a backup) while attached to both with self-arresting measures. Because i needed to go all the way up, I had to pick a line that went to the very top of the mast. This is important for fractional rigs as not all lines go to the top.

I used a spinnaker (primary) and headsail (backup) halyards. For this I dropped the headsail temporarily.

Gear:
- blackdiamond climbing harness
-a couple of carabiners
- one carabiner attached to a rescue figure eight and a short prusik lead connected to the backup line
- one carabiner attached to the a longer prusik lead on the main halyard
- one long webbing runner with prusik on main line
- spare carabiner to attach gear and tools bag
- gloves to protect hands from rope burn

Method:
- move webbing runner prusik up the main line, step in and lift myself up on one leg
- move short backup and then long active prusik
-- repeat about 20 times
- feed slack below prusik into figure eight and go down by feeing the line into the 8 with one hand and sliding the prusik down with the other.


Notes:
- I don't know how this works with the chair, but i couldn't just hang "By the belt" and reach the top of the mast. I had to stand up on the webbing loop that was pulled all the way to the sheave.
- wind will mess with you, so try to pick very calm days
- after 20 years things are rusty, stuck, fragile.
- make sure to use some sort of a leash on your tools. You really don't want to drop anything heavy or expensive
- you need to be in a reasonable shape to do this, but it is not difficult
- do not rely on splices in your lines - tie your own knots away from the very tip of the line.
- inspect the line before using it
- test it by loading fully and loading dynamically a few times
- make sure the harness is comfortable, properly fitted and adjusted
- bring a phone in the bag in case you need to call for help
- give yourself plenty of time and daylight, this is not a fast process and you don't want to be there in the dark.
- you can use mechanical ascenders instead of prusik - they are faster and easier, but many can't be used for descent.
- make sure the lines you are using have some slack. You can't use figure eight if the line is taught.
- size your safety lines and make sure they are new and of high quality. Line is cheap, life is
- bring a buddy.
- figured out a way to feed the sail and raise it into the foil by myself and without using a winch. Pre-feed it into the foil slot, then make a loop with the line coming out of the mast, hold the loop with both hands, put your foot in it and load it up with your weight - the sail with slide up no problem. No winch needed, just a healthy human body willing to do the work

priceless
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Old 29-11-2021, 18:26   #2
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

Making hard work of it ! 4.1 pulley system Job done...
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Old 29-11-2021, 21:25   #3
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

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Originally Posted by Emmalina View Post
Making hard work of it ! 4.1 pulley system Job done...

Probably, but I was doing what I knew already with the gear I knew how to use.

Do you have a link to a specific block system you can recommend for such use and how would you rig it? I'm all about learning ways to make things easier.
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Old 30-11-2021, 04:54   #4
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

I've used the ATN mast climber system for nearly two decades now. It's basically a set of climbing ascenders, attached to a descent bosuns chair.

Works fine, and can be done solo, although I've always had a second person on deck managing my safety line.
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Old 01-12-2021, 08:52   #5
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

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Originally Posted by Emmalina View Post
Making hard work of it ! 4.1 pulley system Job done...
Echo this. Easy peasy. I use a line attached to the bosun chair and to the main halyard with a pressing sliding knot as safety but I have never needed it.

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Old 01-12-2021, 08:53   #6
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

To add to your list: make sure you have everything you need before you go up……
No damage, but I tend to drop sand paper. I also put a lanyard on my varnish brush.
Always a relearn when I use my ATN. I pretty much get the hang of it by the time I’m done.
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Old 01-12-2021, 09:02   #7
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

George, please explain:
A rescue figure eight
One long webbing runner with a Prusik (I know what a Prusik is)
Why a short and a longer Prusik?
Many thanks!
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Old 01-12-2021, 09:26   #8
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

Quote:
Originally Posted by George_SD View Post
Probably, but I was doing what I knew already with the gear I knew how to use.

Do you have a link to a specific block system you can recommend for such use and how would you rig it? I'm all about learning ways to make things easier.
I had a rigger replace a stuck halyard; his modus was to find an available halyard, clip onto that, and pull it all the way to the top.

His multi-purchase, 1" megabraid rig had a lot of volume of line, but there was NO issue of safety, and he easily pulled himself up. Jam cleat on the end of his side of it, and using a trick I learned while building silos in college: wear gloves, and squeeze the bundle of line between the blocks. Easy to control completely. I even do it with my little preventer when I'm up polishing the arch, at only 2-1 and 3/8" lines...

So, a cam cleated double block and a becketed double block should do the trick...
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Old 01-12-2021, 09:35   #9
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

OP: Thank you, very helpful. I need to go up my mast and my wife is uncomfortable acting as my belay safety. Since I don't need to go up often and I also have rock climbing gear, your method is a good solution for me.

Climbing harness vs bosun chair makes complete sense to me. I do note that the same question arises with a hunting-chair harness vs a climbing harness. Perhaps strong opinions on both sides and I don't fault anyone's personal preference.

Should a fall occur, a bosun chair and a hunting-chair harness both are problematic if the subject finds themselves upside down or backwards. A climbing harness, with its attach point in front and close to center CG is designed for such a circumstance and, IMHO, is a preferable design.
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Old 01-12-2021, 10:35   #10
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emmalina View Post
Making hard work of it ! 4.1 pulley system Job done...

are you using dedicated line for your 4:1 or a mulit use line like a shore tie, spare anchor rode, etc...



are you able to get to the top and actually get eyes on the top of the mast from the bosun chair



IE does the 4:1 take up too much space when cinched up tight and you end up being too low to do work at the very top of the mast
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Old 01-12-2021, 10:58   #11
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

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Originally Posted by bailsout View Post
To add to your list: make sure you have everything you need before you go up.
As another one-timer climber, I do similar but using a harness on one prussic/ascendor and a wooden (15" length of 3 x 2") step attached to the other; it's much more comfortable to stand on/work off when you reach the top and with a lashing looped around both your waist and the mast for security/stability (I use a cockpit MOB safety line) you have both hands free to work.
As for make sure you have everything you need - I eventually wrote 'camera' in big letters on my step.
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Old 01-12-2021, 11:41   #12
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

Here is a pdf with a diagram of the system I like to use. It originated from Port Townsend rigging. I have added a second ladder for the other foot, makes standing above the top of the mast very easy. I also added a climbing pulley to the ascender instead of just using the carabiner. Before coming down the Ascender is removed and repel down with just the gri-gri. I attach my climbing rope to my internal main Halyard with a figure eight knot and pull it up to the top. Once I climb up to the top, I can climb up the rope ladders, attach a chest harness to the mast and stand there and work for many hours with both hands free.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf climbing diagram.pdf (57.4 KB, 575 views)
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Old 01-12-2021, 11:53   #13
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emmalina View Post
Making hard work of it ! 4.1 pulley system Job done...
Make it a 5 to 1, and pull yourself up.
Line, a fiddle block, and a racheting block, some shackles.

I use a "Samo" climbing harness as it attaches at waist level, to get higher.
Also, attached, 4 folding steps at a level that you can stand over the mast with, near the top.
I use a teather to suspend from the mast head for hands free work.
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Old 01-12-2021, 18:52   #14
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

I bought an older sailboat, and needed to take the keel-stepped mast down in order to install a radar dome, and rewire the wind instruments, install a topmast tri-light, etc.
The guy who was helping me suggested attaching steps to the mast. Best decision I ever made. Out at sea, climbing a mast is quite difficult. But this is even true at the dock. When I needed to go aloft, which was a number of times during my 15 years as a live aboard circumnavigator, I would tie off a main or spinakker halyard to my bosun chair, and climb the steps while my crew would take slack on the halyard, and make it off once I reached to place where I needed to work. I also wore a safety harness which I clipped to the mast at my final destination. Only once did I climb while solo sailing, so I hove to, and climbed, using only my safety harness. Some people claim that mast steps interfere with halyards, but I never experienced that.
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Old 02-12-2021, 15:26   #15
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Re: Climbed the mast (solo). Notes for those who may be considering

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Originally Posted by Hermia II View Post
George, please explain:
A rescue figure eight
One long webbing runner with a Prusik (I know what a Prusik is)
Why a short and a longer Prusik?
Many thanks!
Rescue 8 - can be tied off to hold the weight and not move or to increase friction during belaying. there are multiple configurations



blackdiamond runner - wider and more comfortable for the foot than a round rope. I agree it's a good idea to insert a wooden plank as a step.




Long prusik so I could move it as high as I could with my arm fully extended above me. If that was my safety light I could theoretically fall 2x it's length (if I was one length above where the prusik is). Short prusik is for safety only - if something happens i will barely go down(less chance of sustaining injury or breaking something).
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