Re: Mast work
The Ascenders on the ATN Mast Climber don't seem fundamentally lower quality than the Petzl ones. I'm interesting to know what aspect you find to be cheesy.
I looked at building my own, but it wasn't a lot less money and it was a lot more work.
My sailing buddies and I have also used climbing harnesses (one of them has climbing experience) and found them unsafe due to the pressure that they put on leg nerves. They are meant for active use, not dangling in them on the mast for 30 minutes while you replace hardware. The (simple and small) bosun's chair with the ATN Mast Climber is a lot more comfortable and still safe. The only aspect that my climbing friend doesn't like is that the leg loops don't have the right sort of buckle to allow backing it up.
Knut's system using a cam cleat is interesting and I saw it before purchasing my Mast Climber. It doesn't allow for solo use though. I don't like going up solo, but I've done it a couple of times when I needed to get something done and couldn't get someone to spot me. I'd also watch the load rating on those cam cleats, a standard Harken 150 is only rated to 300lbs. The one in that photo looks like it might be a Ronstan, I can't tell if it is the medium size (275lb rating) or large (510lb).
Dropping the mast is an option with smaller/lighter rigs, but not on bigger boats.
boats that I sail on regularly: Pearson 28-2, Rondar 505, Yankee 30, Blanchard Junior