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ShamsB 08-21-2013 03:32 PM

Going up the mast
I have a San Juan 28 and the fore deck light needs to be replaced and a bird bent my wind vain on top of the mast. I would like to go up or send a light friend up to fix these things but have very little experience. I was planning on using a climbing harness I have and tying to the main sail halyard. Then using a winch run someone up to replace the light and bend the wind vain back to straight. Any info about the best way to do this and a maximum weight I could send up would be greatly appreciated.


jameswilson29 08-21-2013 03:44 PM

Re: Going up the mast
I always use 2 halyards, jib and main, tied with bowlines (to a climbing rope that I climb with harness and ascenders). Use redundant systems. There is nothing wrong with using a climbing harness instead of a bosun's chair. If someone were winching me up, I would also double loop a tether around the mast itself to a safety harness, the tether to be undone and rewound once you are past the spreaders.

Your SJ28 mast should easily be able to support your weight in column provided there are no defects. This is a good opportunity for you to inspect the rigging while you are up there.

rikhall 08-21-2013 03:47 PM

Re: Going up the mast
I haev used a climbing harness and Jumar ascenders on our Tanzer 28 - now I use a Mast Mate on our Irwin Citation 34.

Another question - how hard to drop the mast and fix it?


Alex W 08-21-2013 04:31 PM

Re: Going up the mast
If you use a climbing harness make sure to add leg loops that you can use to support your legs. Most climbing harnesses are designed to be used when the legs are active and can cut off blood flow if used in more of a sitting position. The leg loops can be simple, even two pieces of line with a bowline in the end for your foot will do the job.

My friends and I used to haul each other up the mast, but it is a lot of work winching someone up there, even if you add a second block and tackle and use a big winch handle. We've since switched to using a ATN Mast Climber (similar to the system of ascenders that James uses) and it's a whole lot easier. We still like to have a second person on the boat following with a redundant halyard on a winch just in case something goes wrong with the climbing gear.

The Mast Climber isn't cheap, but it turns out to not be that much more expensive than buying a simple bosun's chair and the climbing hardware. I got my Mast Climber for about $350 on eBay.

Tanley 08-21-2013 05:33 PM

Re: Going up the mast
Like James says, 2 halyards tied to the harness or bosun's chair. I use an ATN Mastclimber and it's a relatively easy trip up and down. The mastclimber is a solo setup so the second person is essentially there to run the winch on the backup halyard. Tie off a bag for tools - where possible I tie a securing string to tools so they don't go down w/o me. Ascend with an extra line in case you need to pass anything up or down to crew on deck. I need to wear fingerless gloves but that may be due to the way the mastclimber works as you're climbing a static line. Try to do it on a calm and cloudy day and ask those on deck not to dance around - small movements below result in larger swings aloft. As mentioned, inspect the rigging as you go - ascending and decending as you're eye will catch different things. Have some rigging tape handy for any boots or radar reflectors. Bring a camera up so you can inspect pictures later and the novelty of getting a couple of shots from the masthead.

I'm about 190lbs and go up our 28' double spreader rig.

nolatom 08-21-2013 05:39 PM

Re: Going up the mast
Yeah, that's what it looks like from "up there", all right. Good photo.

Use two more people in the cockpit than you think you'll need.

If you have a flag halyard, it's handy for sending up what you forgot, or down what you don't have enough hands for.

Growing up, i never used a second halyard, just the main halyard and a boasuns chair. I was lucky. Please use two halyards.

I'd think about 170 as as much as any grinder should be asked to crank up the mast. 140 much better. I weighed about 130 when younger, so i was generally the one who found himself up at the masthead.

miatapaul 08-21-2013 09:18 PM

Re: Going up the mast
Another 2 halyard comment, be safe. It is a long way to drop and will really hurt! take a camera with you and make sure you have a lanyard on all your tools so you don't drop them!

WinterRiver 08-21-2013 10:10 PM

Re: Going up the mast
Yes, a camera is key. Take lots of pictures from lots of angles. That way, you might have answers to questions you think of later.

Our daughter likes going up the mast. We've been known to have her hang out up there while we review pictures she's taken.

jnorten 08-21-2013 10:26 PM

Re: Going up the mast
I second the ideas of. . .
--an extra line to send up forgotten stuff
--rigging tape (you'll always find a little bit coming off somewhere)
--camera (for the fun photos but ALSO to document stuff for the skipper). I go aloft annually for the guy I crew for. I went aloft just a week ago to replace the burned out anchor light.

Harness comment: Do make sure that it stills allow circulation in your legs.

On two halyards: DO IT! Do you want to trust your life to ONE line? No.

Some folks commented to use two halyards attached to your bosun's chair. I do not like this--what happens if you fall out of the chair? Two halyards don't matter then. On the chair that I use, it's conceivable (although not likely) to fall out on the way up or down if I perhaps catch a foot on a spreader or something.

Instead, here is the solution that we use:
I wear a safety harness. To the harness, I attach the spare halyard with a bowline. For good measure, I then clip the shackle end to the harness as well.

Then, I sit in the bosun's chair. To the chair, we attach the primary halyard with a bowline.

I've weighed as much as 180+ over the years and this has worked--the boat is a 37' Hunter.

The strong person grinds with the primary attached to the chair. The goal for the second person is to keep just a touch of slack in the halyard attached to the harness. Being just a regular safety harness, it is NOT comfortable to have one's weight fully supported by the harness. But, if the primary and chair somehow failed, the harness would prevent serious injury.

It's fun to go aloft, just be careful.

MarkSailor 08-21-2013 10:58 PM

Re: Going up the mast
When you go up the mast, make sure that the on deck crew are not directly below you. If the halyard winch is on the mast, rig a block to lead the halyard back to another winch. Rig the second safety line away from the mast too. Even if you think that you have lanyards on everything, there is a risk that a tool or the parts you are working on will drop (not to mention the risk that you will drop if any of the hardware fails). You don't want your on-deck crew hit by any falling objects. They won't be able to lower you back to the deck if they are unconscious.

If you go up at the dock on a calm day, you probably won't need a tether to the mast, but if you go up while at sea, I would definitely tether to the mast. If it were really rough, I'd consider two tethers, so you can fasten the second one above the spreaders before you have to release the first one from below the spreaders.

I'd prefer to rely on a knot I tied myself than a halyard shackle to fasten the climbing harness to the halyard. (If I'm gonna die, I'd rather know who messed up the connection.) Brion Toss recommends a buntline hitch. But a bowline will hold as securely, and with a climbing harness you shouldn't have a problem with the extra length of the bowline compared to the buntline hitch. (The bosun's chair attaches to the halyard about even with your neck, and if you tie a bowline, it's harder to hoist the end of the halyard high enough to get your head above the top of the mast.)

Also, no matter how hot it is the day you go up, wear long pants. A cotter pin can make a nasty laceration when you are sliding past the spreaders.

With a little planning, a trip to the top of the mast can be very manageable. Have fun and enjoy the view.

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