Retrieving Main Halyard from top of Mast?
Okay, I’m embarrassed but…went out for my first sail of the season after working most every winter weekend on the boat. Everything went great, light (5-10-15 knots) wind, clear/sunny skies, 70’s, cruising around for about 5 hours. Coming back to the slip about ready to lower the sails and “pop” I look up and see the mainsail shackle has let loose of the main and it slacks and begins to fall. I had already started the motor so I just rounded up and lowered the sail and motored on in. At the slip I notice the main halyard/shackle remains at the top of the mast and the shackle is open. I’m wondering, did it fail, or did I fail to properly fasten it…well, it’s an “over-center” design with a “pull pin” similar to what you see on a snap shackle (sorry, I don’t know all the terminology here)…it held for 4-5 hours, why did it suddenly let loose. Well, it was evening/dinner time so off to the cabin to take care of that and slept on it overnight. I have a bosun’s chair (never been used), but no line to climb…the tail of the main halyard is run through mast so no exposed line to ride (probably wouldn’t be to smart to rely on the shackle/knot at the head for tension anyway)…the headsail is on a roller furling, so unless I want to dismantle all that I can’t use the headsail halyard…not too fond of heights anyway, so I can I do this from the deck?.
Next morning made a run to Home Depot and got 3-10’ sections of ¾” rigid EMT (I was going to use PVC, but an in-store test proved the PVC too flexible) with connectors, duck taped a bent coat hanger to it and went “air fishing” for my halyard. Actually touched the halyard/shackle a couple of times but didn’t hook it and between the 30’ height, weight of pipe (it’s bending and twisting under its own weight…especially at the connectors which I had drilled through for a more secure connection), wind, and gentle rocking boat it was quite difficult to control. A neighbor suggests a net or something to snag it. I have some fishnet for a storage hammock I haven’t yet installed so I cut a wad of it and attach it to the pole. I got it up there again (no jokes please) and brushed it a couple of times before the wind caught it and bent it way over until it bent and broke and fell into the open slip beside me (I made sure it fell that way, if any, instead of onto the boat the other side of me…I hope my slip neighbor doesn’t read this). So, 20’ of the pole and the fishnet were sacrificed to the lake gods and I called it quite.
So now for the question(s)…How do I get my main halyard back down? Why did the shackle let go? Is the shackle I have the proper hardware for the halyard? How do I keep this from ever happening again?
At a previous lake they had a pole with ladder rungs along side the dock for climbing and retrieving for this very scenario. At my marina they have a pole for mast stepping with winches but I do not believe they are for public use. So, short of paying marina service fro retrieving my halyard what are my options? I know an inspection of the shackle after retrieval will be required to answer some of the questions. To assure this doesn’t happen again I could tie a retrieving line to it but don’t really want that flogging around. Alternatively I could tie some weight to it to overcome the counterbalanced weight of the line…I wonder how much weight it would take?
1982 Islander Bahama 30