Working Up The Mast   

This can be quite a thrilling and invigorating experience. Choose the weather wisely –too much wind and control is difficult for those assisting and for the person in the chair performing the maintenance. As you ascend higher, the taut halyards and sturdy mast provide a steady foundation, ensuring your safety as you navigate the heights. With a two-meter safety line securely fastened, you can focus on your tasks without worry. The halyard controllers below need to diligently keep an eye on you, ready to anticipate any potential troubles before they arise.

As you reach the pinnacle of your climb, the halyard controllers expertly flake down the halyards, preparing for a seamless descent. When the time comes to come back down, the halyards are untied with precision, maintaining tension to prevent any disconcerting drops. The primary halyard bears the weight while the other is kept slightly slack, allowing for smooth and controlled descent. Utilizing the mast, shrouds, and taught halyards, you maintain a steady orientation throughout your journey.

The statistics may be difficult to obtain, but anecdotal evidence suggests that approximately two yachtsmen lose their lives each year due to mast climbing accidents. To minimize these risks, it is recommended that climbers wear long trousers and foot protection as a safeguard against abrasion.

Working up the mast is not just a task to carry out maintenance and repairs, but a task that requires skill, focus, and a touch of daring. In any event, as far as possible, keep both halyards taut. Before ascending, visually inspect the bosun’s chair or harness to ensure it is in good condition. It is good for the climber to bounce in the chair after the halyards are attached a bit just above deck level before climbing any higher just to check all is well. The climber should make use of mast/shrouds/taught halyards to steady the orientation.

At least one of the halyard controllers must look up at the person in the chair anticipating troubles before they occur. A two-meter safety line between the climber and mast of 6 or 8mm diameter line can be used. Tied tight around the mast, it can be slid up or down manually but won’t slide down if weight is thrown on it suddenly. At each stop on the way up or down the mast, keep your safety line attached and have halyard controllers tie off the halyards. Keep clear below.

If you are working below the climber for any reason, wear a safety helmet. While the climber is at the top of the climb, the halyard controllers should flake down their halyards ready for a tangle-free descent. When the climber is ready to come down, the halyards must be untied without losing any tension. It’s disconcerting to be dropped even a few inches when the halyards are released. The primary halyard should take the weight while the other is kept slightly slack. The reason for this is friction. As the climber descends, the halyard is eased out smoothly. It must be released under full control without binding on the winch. Two turns on the winch are the maximum needed, one is usually enough. Too many turns will cause the halyard to stick, resulting in a series of bounces for the person in the chair.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure a secure and safe mast climbing experience to carry out checks and repairs.

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What you need...

  1. 6mm or 8mm double braid line
  2. block to work rope
  3. cleat to lock rope
  4. bosuns chair
  5. or rope to make your own harness
  6. safety bag for tools