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Old 02-25-2002
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Dan Dickison is on a distinguished road
Going Aloft

I have a US 27 sailboat and I need to replace the wind vane at the top of my mast. I want to know if it would be safe to be hoisted up the mast on a 27-foot boat. I weigh 130 pounds. If it's OK, how should I do it and what are some tips?

Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question. We're pretty certain that you can go up the mast of your boat safely, but there are a number of things we'd like to know first. Is your mast and the rig that supports it in good repair? If it's a wooden mast and you suspect any rot, then going up wouldn't be advisable. If it's a stout mast, but the rig is old or worn, or corroded, then we wouldn't advise you to go up either. Also, is this a fractional rig? If it is, how far above the hounds is the mast tip?

Going to the top of a rig is ordinarily no big deal, but if the rig isn't secured, or if some part of it is faulty, you might be risking damage to the mast, and worse yet to yourself. If your boat has a masthead rig, you'll most likely be OK. I outweigh you by 70 pounds and I've had to freehand my way to the top of a Shields mast before, but those spars are stout aluminum extrusions that could probably withstand five times my weight at the masthead.

If you can answer all the above questions and are certain that the mast, rig, and halyards are secure, then get yourself a couple of trusted friends to help, along with a reliable bosun's chair, and you'll be ready to go. I'd suggest tying not only the main halyard to the chair, but for additional safety attach another line as well, like a headsail halyard or a topping lift. If something does go wrong with the main halyard, these lines will be safeguards for you.

Try to go up the mast in the calmest weather and water possible, which usually occurs in the early morning. Make sure when you go aloft that you've got all the tools you'll need so that you don't have to take multiple trips or get anything sent up to you on a messenger line. You shouldn't need more than a screwdriver (take both a flat head and a Phillips head), an adjustable wrench, some rigging tape, and you might as well take along some spray lubricant so that you can service the sheaves while you're aloft. One your way up and once you're up there, tell your friends not to stand directly beneath you in case you drop a tool. And tell them beforehand not to move about the deck too quickly or they'll end up rocking you around up top.

Here's hoping that this information will help you make a safe and successful replacement of your masthead wind indicator.

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