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Old 14-08-2008, 06:31   #1
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Location: Kemah, TX, USA
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ATN Topclimber Bosun Chair

Hi. I need to go aloft for maintenance and would like to do it unaided. Does anybody have any experience with the ATN Topclimber Bosun Chair? Or the Mast Mate? My boat is an Island Packet 38 cutter rigged. I weigh 170 Lb. Thanks!
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Old 14-08-2008, 07:11   #2
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I have a Top Climber and have used it on a 60' mast without difficulty (Iím in my 60's and weigh about the same as you.) Unless you do knee-bends (squats) regularly, you'll find your legs will be a bit sore afterward.

It takes a while to get used to the device as the seat assembly and arrangement are quite different than a traditional bosen's chair. While the gear can be used unaided, if you elect to do that, ensure that the line you are using is good--or near new--and that it passes over a sheave in the mast-head rather than a block suspended from a crane such as a spinnaker halyard. Better to have a ground person that can adjust a second halyard as a safety line attached to the seat as you ascend or descend and pass needed tools up on a tag line. While you will have an inclination to haul the assent line quite tight, I have found that the system works better with a small bit of slack.

It takes awhile to get the "inch-worm" action right. For example, don't slide the foot-stirrup jammer all the way up to the underside of the seat jammer as your body will rotate out and away from the up-haul as you try to stand in the stirrups. (Also, as the device is made, when you lift your knees you may find that your feet tend to slide out of the stirrups unless you use a small line around the stirrups at the top of your feet to keep the stirrups tight.) Likewise when you are descending, do not slide the seat jammer all the way down to the stirrup jammer or you will not be able to release that.

Supposedly one can use this device while underway but, truthfully, I find that very unlikely as one can be thrown around quite readily and with both hands occupied, one cannot easily brace oneself on the mast or other rigging.

Good Luck!

s/v HyLyte
"It is not so much for its beauty that the Sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."
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Old 14-08-2008, 07:12   #3
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Thumbs down Would not recommned the ATN.

I have an ATN Topclimber and have used it 6 - 8 times to go aloft. I would not recommend it, nor would I buy another one.

I find it much more awkward to use then a regular chair. I thought it was just me, but I have lent it out and others have found it difficult also.

While it is nice to be able to go aloft without assistance I would look at other ways. I have a friend who built his own using a pair of better quality ascenders.... he makes the use of that one look pretty easy but he has a climbing background. I do think the ascenders are the issue with the ATN... you can make it easier with insane halyard tension, but still not (IMHO) easy.

Just one Sailor's opinion.
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Old 14-08-2008, 07:33   #4
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This is a better unit at a third of the price. It's Petzl caving gear and very safe. I have one and it works famously. You will have to buy a chair to go with it, though.

Petzl Frog Ascending System from
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Old 14-08-2008, 07:50   #5
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I ditto Starfish recomendation. I'd trust good climbing/caving gear more than the ATN, and it can be cheaper. I used to climb and use my old climbing harness and a pair of ascenders very effectively and safely to go up the mast alone. I also haul up a dedicated static (vs dynamic) climbing rope to ascend, rather than climbing a halyard. I find the ease of use for me gets me up the mast more often, which is always good to check for problems. HOWEVER, with any climbing gear its really essential that you learn to use it properly. Some rigging shops sell the gear and will teach you how to use it properly, as will many outdoor stores.

Note, many people find climbing harnesses uncomfortable to sit in up the mast for long, but if you get one with wide straps it's not too bad. I regularly sit at the top of the mast for an hour or so working on something with no discomfort. And, a climbing harness, properly worn, you'll never fall out of. Finally, I'm almost 60 and it still works for me.

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Old 14-08-2008, 08:47   #6
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I should add to my earlier note that did I not own the ATN already, I would not buy one knowing what I do now, but would follow Jaga's suggestion.
"It is not so much for its beauty that the Sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."
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Old 14-08-2008, 09:22   #7
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Again, make sure you know how to use the gear properly.

As an example, I have a wooden boat with 50+ year old wooden masts, so I inspect them regularly. Since I'm sitting here at anchor waiting for a new engine, I thought I'd do something productive and strip and varnish my mizzen mast - in place standing up. I've managed to completely power sand off the old varnish, with a 5" orbital sander attached to a small generator on deck with a 40' extension cord, and now have three coats of varnish - all while hanging from my climbing harness. It does work, and I can even ignore the swinging from wake of passing monster boats...I just wrap my legs around the mast (I varnish from the top down) and keep sanding or varnishing.

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Old 14-08-2008, 22:55   #8
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mast mate

My main mast is 63 ft the mizz shorter, from the waterline, I use a mastmate. I find it quite easy to climb, pretty much like going up a ladder. I still use a belt and harness on a lalyard for safty. The only downside is that you have to take the sail out of the track to insert the mate's slides. It is a small price to pay. I looked hard at the ATN, as the guy made it look so easy, but I think I made the rite choice! Good luck on yours.
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Old 15-08-2008, 04:28   #9
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Climbing gear is better. A climbing harness is impossible to fall out of. If you go upside down you might smack your head but you won't be leaving the harness. It's more comfortable to sit for a long time in a harness. They do come in sizes and they need proper adjustment but it's better than sitting on a board. You do need foot loops to stand in to work the very top of the masthead such as drilling into the top to thread holes for a fitting.

I have a Petzl harness but the darn thing shrunk over the last 20 years. It's amazing that it used to fit perfectly.
Paul Blais
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37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 15-08-2008, 08:02   #10
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I have a 50 foot MastMate.

I have used it maybe ten, fifteen times to go to the masthead by myself. When I go up the mast, I also use a bosuns chair and a separate ascender on the toppling lift for safety. If you don't have to do a lot of work, you might be able to dispense with the bosun's chair. It has double steps near the top.

It is very well made. It comes without slugs, so you have to attach the ones that fit your mast track. Sometimes, the rungs get hung up on the fittings when you raise it. You have to lower it and flop it back and forth. The steps are a little far apart so you have to consciously place your feet. It is also a bit of a pain to pack up, so I leave it up if I need to do work over a couple of days.

I have also gone up using two Petzl ascenders with a setup like the ATN climber. It is very slow and physical compared to the MastMate steps both going up and coming down.

What marina are you in in Kemah? You can come and take a look at it if you want.
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Old 15-08-2008, 08:24   #11
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I have had my TopClimber for about 8 years, and I really like it. Could you build one with climbing gear cheaper? I have no doubt, but the price was within range of what I could afford, and the product has performed flawlessly for me. For anyone that wants an off the shelf solution, I would not have a problem recommending the ATN. I would also say that the standard bosun's chair is fine if you have a second person who can haul you up, but that is a problem for us 250# guys with hundred pound wives. I also like being able to clip in at the top, and stand over the mast head. Something I could not do with the standard chair.
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Old 15-08-2008, 10:01   #12
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I own and have used both. I have converted from a chair to a climbing harness (I'm using the Spinlock Mast Professional) for the top climber. I use a climbing rope hoisted instead of the halyard. I find with the wide padded straps on this harness that I'm more comfortable than in a chair (my understanding is that a "wall" climbing harness has the wide and well padded straps also). Might be just me but the harness is much more secure feeling particularly when using the foot stirrups to stand above the mast head to work. I could never get the chair to follow me up easily. I don't do a lot of deep knee bends but I do walk a fair amount and I'm heavier than you, but have only felt fatigued when I had to go up and down three times in one day on a 65 foot mast (lack of preplanning on my part). The ladder works well too but the advantage of the climbers is that you don't have to attach the ladder to the main sail track. I tried to climb the ladder without it attached to the mast and it was just too hard (and for me scary). So for me this means if I ever had a problem where I needed to go up the mast with the main sail up (and I didn't have beefy crew to haul me up) the ascenders are the best option. I bought my system used but agree with the others you will probably get better equipment and or a better price by using climbing equipment. Just as an observation the professional riggers I've hired over the last 12 years have all used a climbing harness of some type and not a chair no matter how they got up the mast.
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