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Old 14-08-2022, 12:08   #1
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Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

So I climbed this webbing ladder to the top of the mast and it was quite the experience.

I'm getting close to 70 years old and I guess I forgot that I haven't climbed anything lately.

When you are young you just do it, but when older you consider all the possibilities like will my 20 plus year old rigging hold my 190 lbs.

Is the wind too strong or will the wakes from passing boats make it extra tough.

Needless to say I went up quite slowly which put more stress on my muscles.

These webbing ladders have long steps also so you have to lift your foot up over the knee of the down leg.

It didn't seem like it would be such a big deal until I got up over the spreaders then you start to consider the possible problems more.

After convincing myself I had reinforced the rigging enough I went on up the rest of the way.

Then inspected the backstay connection and ran a new topping lift line. Luckily there were two bullet blocks up there because the center roller of the original topping lift block had disintegrated.

The remaining block was quite small, but I was finally able to get the line through and retied to my beltloop.

Next time I'll remove that bad block then fix the mast head light.

Then I plan to replace the forestay and backstay. I have no more adjustment in the backstay and the forestay is a bit too short.

Mast still has some prebend so the cables are about the same tension as when I set them in 2012 or so

The webbing ladder came from 4yachts in Poland. $136 delivered. Plus sail slides which I bought locally

https://4yachts.eu/

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Old 14-08-2022, 12:44   #2
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

Thanks for posting. I am curious to hear more about the experience, since I have the same sort of ladder, plus about six more years. My ladder came with the boat when I bought it from former owner, and I had just kept it tucked away in case. Then a few years ago I needed to run a lift for my spinnaker pole and tried the ladder and on the spur of the moment tried climbing the ladder, but could not climb, I guess because I left the bottom loose. Since the boat was due to come out for the winter soon, I did not pursue the matter further, and ran the line when the mast came down. So any advice you can give on using the latter would be very useful. Do you secure the bottom, and any tips on doing so? Also, did you use harness as well and did you have someone holding a safety line? Would be great to hear more ...
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Old 14-08-2022, 13:05   #3
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

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Originally Posted by Brioche View Post
Thanks for posting. I am curious to hear more about the experience, since I have the same sort of ladder, plus about six more years. My ladder came with the boat when I bought it from former owner, and I had just kept it tucked away in case. Then a few years ago I needed to run a lift for my spinnaker pole and tried the ladder and on the spur of the moment tried climbing the ladder, but could not climb, I guess because I left the bottom loose. Since the boat was due to come out for the winter soon, I did not pursue the matter further, and ran the line when the mast came down. So any advice you can give on using the latter would be very useful. Do you secure the bottom, and any tips on doing so? Also, did you use harness as well and did you have someone holding a safety line? Would be great to hear more ...
The ladder was secured to the mast with sail slides most of the way down.

I raised the ladder to the top of the mast with the jib halyard using bowline knot. There is a big metal triangle at the top of the ladder and when that hit the mast head I secured the halyard. The halyard and ladder were also my forestay reinforcement. Halyard came down and I ran it through bow platform strong point I sometimes use for dock lines then secured back at mast

I didn't use a harness nor did I have anyone help me but maybe next time I could use the harness and tether I use onboard. I could loop the tether thru that triangle and back to harness then work at the masthead more safely

Main halyard was backup/reinforcer for old backstay. It was tied to the boom and boom to mainsheet

I have three stays/shrouds on each side so I trusted those to hold.

Only other problem was my legs were sore from my Wednesday 3.5 mile walk/run/workout and long bike ride (26 miles) the weekend before. It takes time for old legs to heal when doing new things

I was whooped when I got down.....

Tough part was getting the topping lift line through the small block with one hand and holding on with the other. Fat burnt end of line made it hard but I finally got it.

My ladder had long distances between steps especially after it stretched with me on it.
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Old 14-08-2022, 13:30   #4
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

I'm a little younger and tried a ladder but my problem was my legs got tired (mast is 23m/75 feet) and it's hard to rest once you start.

So I switched to a harness and carabiners and find it much easier. You can take a break and rest in the harness and it also keeps both hands free to work.
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Old 14-08-2022, 14:09   #5
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

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Originally Posted by SV Tom Crean View Post
I'm a little younger and tried a ladder but my problem was my legs got tired (mast is 23m/75 feet) and it's hard to rest once you start.

So I switched to a harness and carabiners and find it much easier. You can take a break and rest in the harness and it also keeps both hands free to work.
I use my webbing ladder and find it preferable to being hauled up.
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Old 14-08-2022, 14:14   #6
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

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Originally Posted by thomm225 View Post
I didn't use a harness nor did I have anyone help me but maybe next time I could use the harness and tether I use onboard. I could loop the tether thru that triangle and back to harness then work at the masthead more safely
Eek If solo, I take the spinnaker line around the spreaders to the back of the mast and tie it off tight. Then a loop of double braid is tied around it with a Prussic knot. It means that if I fall or something goes wrong I won't fall far. Might be stuck up the mast, but that can be sorted later.

I do secure the bottom of the webbing ladder to the boom goose neck which makes it easier to climb. I am good for about 30 - 40 minutes before needing to come down.

Quote:
Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
I use my webbing ladder and find it preferable to being hauled up.
Agreed, I can climb higher if necessary to be above the masthead which can't be done with a chair etc, which makes working up there easier.
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Old 14-08-2022, 14:26   #7
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

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I have no more adjustment in the backstay and the forestay is a bit too short.
I'm still concerned about this. Forestay being too short may be because of the way the backstay is tightened. My concern is that perhaps the backstay chain plate has moved.

If you have a small sized friend, or a smart child in your acquaintance (or know a small rigger) have them go back and take a look at it: there should be no sign whatsoever of it having slipped upwards. Go yourself, if you fit back there. If you are certain all is well with the chain plate, proceed as planned. If not, replace chainplate, then the rigging per your plan.

When we last had the mast out, Jim had two steps put next to each other on the mast, so that he could just stand to work on the mast head. Didn't cost all that much, makes the jobs easier. However, doing the jobs oneself does let you see how everything is up there; teaches you why it is difficult; and perhaps teaches a bit of respect for the young riggers who haul themselves up with multipart tackles.

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Old 14-08-2022, 14:45   #8
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

The backstay is fine just old. The turnbuckle adjusters are all the way in and have been that way since I set all stays to about 400 lbs. with a Loos Gauge except the forward lowers which I set at 450-500 lbs. for some prebend.

If I did it today I would use less tension but I was used to beach cats then and we used to set diamond wires to 750-1000 lbs for prebend.

Good news is mast prebend is just about the same as when I set it then back in 2012 or so.

No idea when mast and rigging was last inspected/replaced etc. as the PO had passed by the time I bought the boat.

Btw I made no adjustment to the forestay/furler.

PO may have been trying to reduce weather helm with the mast forward a tad....

As far as the chainplates they look good but some of the bolts are showing some rust coming through the paint. Bolts were painted over years ago.

I plan to replace all bolts with stainless....
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Old 14-08-2022, 16:24   #9
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

I was just up my mast today too, also on a webbing ladder, but with harness and separate safety line. Props to you for having the strength and courage to make such a climb without protection (there are free solo climbers out there who do some truly amazing things) but personally I like to have some backup.



A nifty device that has become standard kit for high angle workers and rescue folks is the Petzl ASAP. Runs along a separate line freely and locks like a seatbelt if you fall. Unload it and it travels freely again. They aren't cheap but certainly make life easy and safe(er).



I used to work at height, had regular high angle rescue training, and also climbed recreationally. I have used many techniques and devices over the years and all have their place, pros and cons for sure so I'm not knocking anyone's suggestions regarding prussiks or ascenders or other techniques, I just really like the ASAP for this kind of situation. I also use a rope ladder to climb the mast and a separate halyard alongside for the ASAP (if nobody is available to belay me). If you only have one halyard to work with then I suppose you could haul a line up on the same halyard alongside the ladder and attach the ASAP to that. Not ideal to be aloft on only one line but better than nothing.



A work positioning tip that some might find useful is to bring an extra sling or daisy chain up with you (I find a 3' round sling works best for me) and choke it off to the masthead, spreader, or even a ladder rung. Keep one foot on the ladder and step into the sling with the other, using them like a pair of stirrups. Now you're standing on both legs, can balance and sway with the boat, squeeze the mast with your knees for stability, bend at the waist, etc. For some more stability you can put a short sling around the mast and back to your harness and lean back into it, like a logger or pole climber would with spikes and a belt. You can stand up there for a long time without getting tired. When you do, just clip into a ladder rung and sit for a bit.


I like the idea of installing a couple of folding mast steps at the top by the way. Super idea in fact, I may just do that. Minimal weight and cost for making life so much easier when you inevitably have to go up there and do some work. Paired with a quick belt loop around the mast it would be even easier and quicker than the stirrup setup I use.



Definitely interested in hearing what others do to make ascending the mast and working at height on their own boat easier and safer.
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Old 14-08-2022, 20:38   #10
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

I tried to use a ladder this spring. I didn't make it much past the spreaders due to fear while swaying. I also damaged my steaming light. I'm much younger than Thomm, I just couldn't get it right.

I secured the bottom with dock lines. I initially tried to position the bottom several feet from the mast. I wanted to be able to lean on the ladder to conserve energy, but that setup caused the ladder to twist.

I had a climbing harness that I secured to a halyard with a Blake's Hitch in place of a Prussik. That wasn't great either, the hitch doesn't release easily after it is loaded. I also tried to keep a loop connecting my waist and the mast.
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Old 14-08-2022, 22:34   #11
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

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Originally Posted by Nekton73 View Post
For some more stability you can put a short sling around the mast and back to your harness and lean back into it, like a logger or pole climber would with spikes and a belt. You can stand up there for a long time without getting tired.

...

Definitely interested in hearing what others do to make ascending the mast and working at height on their own boat easier and safer.
Yes, great idea of having a couple of folding mast steps at the top.

I usually wear a Black Diamond seat harness like I'm going rock climbing and have a boatswain's chair rigged up on a free halyard or burton, the old plank of wood-with-a-rope affair, a ditty bag with tools shackled into it. Once I get into position I bowse on the halyard and make it fast with a bight where I'm working.

I like the plank because modern boatswain's chairs seem built for comfort, not for getting out of and using as a step. I stand on my boatswain's chair as often as sit in it and that's how I work at the masthead. My climbing harness means I'm always clipped into something and I can take a rest if I feel like it.

I'm also cheating the entire time because both masts are rattled down with rat boards. It's just climbing a rigid ladder to go work aloft. Sometimes I go up just for the view. The issue is getting up the topmast...

I did the Prussik knot before and blast me if I could barely get down again!
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Old 15-08-2022, 01:36   #12
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Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

A webbing ladder should be held to the mast usually using sail slides. Itís dangerous otherwise

I still bring up a bosuns chair ( my wife can haul that up with me as I climb , useful if you need to rest

The other thing I bring up is a 2Ē webbing strap to tie my torso to the mast , this allows me to use both hands

I donít like the plastic folding mast steps. They degrade in sunlight and let go abruptly , donít ask me how I know. I havenít seen either aluminium or stainless folding steps other then those tiny footprint ones that I donít like anyway
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Old 15-08-2022, 02:34   #13
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

I'm a huge fan of mast steps. When I worked for a broker I went up a lot of masts. And every boat I've owned for any length of time would end up with mast steps. In my opinion they are much safer. I use a bosun's harness and secure myself as I go up, similar to a lineman.
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Old 16-08-2022, 06:01   #14
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

Another thing I did before climbing the webbing ladder up the mast was to remove my sailing gloves which I had on when securing/reinforcing the rigging with the halyards etc.

I also had to bring down the jib and disconnect/untie to use that halyard.

You can hold onto the mast much better without gloves than with so if you slip or miss a step it can be important.
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Old 16-08-2022, 06:37   #15
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Re: Climbing the Mast with Webbing Ladder

I had one of those webbing ladders on a prevous boat - it came with a belt with attached bag for tools. The belt went around the climber and the mast so that you can use both hands for the work at the mast head. Plus it is a major safety feature. I would not want to tackle your job at the masthead without the belt. I switched to an ATN Mast Climber due to the spacing of the web steps you mentioned. In my opinion, they are way too far apart.
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