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post #1 of 14 Old 05-04-2011 Thread Starter
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Mast Steps - what to put at the top?

I am fitting mast steps to my 50 foot mast and and in a quandery over what to place at the top of the flight of steps where I will expect to stand and work for a period of time.

I am using the nylon fold out Mast Steps for the flight of steps but am considering something different at the top, perhaps a pair of those steps which provide a wider platform for the foot and which have an enclosed foot step.

Yours views please.
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post #2 of 14 Old 05-04-2011
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What do you plan to do up there that would necessitate permanent steps and a comfy top platform?

Adding weight to a mast is not generally desirable, let alone all the mounting holes. It has been done, so I'm not saying its an outrageous idea. It just seems like there are several easier and less expensive alternatives, unless you need to be up there often for some reason.


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post #3 of 14 Old 05-04-2011
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Bernard, I would suggest a good climber's harness or bosun's chair that you take aloft with you, and tie on at the masthead.

I'm not sure how I'd feel about nylon steps though. Even the best nylon takes UV damage when exposed to sunlight. A fiberglass reinforced black nylon (i.e. Marelon brand) is much better than plain white nylon but still...I think five years down the line I'd trust metal castings more than nylon that had been out in the sun.
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post #4 of 14 Old 05-04-2011
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I have aluminum steps on my Gulf 32 and I can testify to how valuable they can be. The arguments for and against are all sound, and one can be convinced either way depending on their circumstances, but for my boat, and for me, mast steps have been absolutely critical.

To answer your question, my mast steps proceed up the mast as you expect with one on either side. The bottom most step is actually one of those aluminum fold out when you want it steps, but the rest are full enclosure. At the top, there are two steps placed at equal height, and at the height you need to stand in them and comfortably work at the top of your mast. I'm 6'2" and when in them I would the top of the mast is at about my belly button.

The benefit of this is many-fold. For one, I replaced all my standing rigging myself (which is easy and cheaper) and solo. This requires mast steps for the countless up and down trips to deal with connections.

For another, I put a solent stay on my boat and this required lengthy and delicate time at the top of the mast. I must have gone up and down the mast 20 times a day for several days for this project. You can see a photo with me in my top steps at the top of the mast in this blog post about my solent stay.

Stories of Aeolus- Our Gulf 32 Pilothouse: Solent Stay Installation

So, in addition to the benefits of emergency use, I find them invaluable for doing the routine maintenance that too often gets avoided.

Of course, my Gulf is no racing boat though she isn't slow, and the weight of those steps is utterly insignificant to the 6,000 lbs of lead in her keel!!

I also don't know about synthetic steps. Never seen them or used them. Can think of all sorts of problems they could have, but have an open mind until I know more about them.

There is much to know about the proper way to drill and tap and protect the mast from corrosion. That's a whole different question. Have fun with your project, it is great you are taking it on.

Aeolus
Gulf 32
Bainbridge Island, WA

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post #5 of 14 Old 05-04-2011
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I wouldn't be without steps. Raven has the rigid enclosed type though if I was redoing or installing from new I'd go with the folding type. Doubt I would go plastic. Maybe that fear is unjustified but there you go.

When I go to masthead I use a climbers harness. It certainly makes working at the masthead feel secure to me. If working to spreaders I usually just climb but it depends on what I am doing. If its just to replace a lamp e.g. then climb, if doing something more complicated use the harness and have an assistant.

ps - climbers rig with caribiner is a great piece of kit but be careful you don't put the caribiner on back to front. Doesn't effect the safety but my it can dig into your chest. Trust me on this.

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Last edited by tdw; 05-04-2011 at 09:37 PM.
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post #6 of 14 Old 05-05-2011
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If you're planning on any voyaging, don't go without steps. You will have to go up the mast, maybe even at sea. It is really hard to get hauled up a mast when the boat is rolling, way easier to climb. And you can do it alone.

And another thing, I know that fold-away steps are slick and modern but they will kill you if they get an opportunity - for me it's fully closed steps or nothing at all. I have gone up my rig on a previous boat in the middle of a rolly ocean and it's actually not hard with fully enclosed steps.


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post #7 of 14 Old 05-05-2011
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I installed fold out aluminum steps on my last boat and this spring I'm going to finally start installing the steps that have been collecting dust in my cellar for the last few years. Projects..... projects.... projects..... I have no intention of climbing up the mast without a bosuns chair unless it was some extreme emergency and my wife wasn't available. Coastal Cruiser only. My reason and use is that my wife is small and weak and with steps she simply has to take up the slack on the chair lines while I climb up - easy and safe for both of us

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Wickford/Narragansett Bay RI
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post #8 of 14 Old 05-09-2011
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I also have the enclosed mast steps. What is the recommended method to go up the steps if working alone. I have been using a sailing harness with two clips and clip on as I go up. I always hold on with one hand. I imagine the shock load from the harness could do some damage in a fall.

Say I use a climbing harness as a back-up. How do I keep tension on a halyard if working alone?
Regards
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post #9 of 14 Old 05-09-2011
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I put on folding steps (metal) and I love them. Just takes away a lot of hassle with going up and down, and I am not concerned with the minor weight aloft as I am not a racer (although honestly I can not see the weight being that big of an issue for racers, but I am not one, so I will not argue ).

At the top I just have 2 steps at the same height and find that it works well. For long jobs a good heavy pair of shoes helps, like hiking boots so the steps do not dig in through the soles while standing for a while. Even without them though, its only a minor annoyance.

I still use a climbing harness for safety, using a halyard when someone else is available. I also have a short rope loop on the harness I can loop around the mast which holds me snug to the mast while working. I can lean back against the rope loop and not swing away from the mast.

Going up alone I just use the loop on the harness around the mast, and lift it past the steps before folding them down on the way up. This way if I should slip or break a step or whatever, the loop can not slide down past the step, so I can only fall a few feet. Painful still I am sure, but better then hitting the deck! I am not sure this would work for you Casey with fixed steps, but perhaps some variation would.

Another option might be an accender (sp?) a climbing gizmo that would hook onto a fixed halyard. It can slide up, but not down unless you are holding the release mechanism. They are not cheap, but would work well for a single handed safety backup. A cheaper alternative is a fancy knot, the name of which I can not remember which basically works the same way. Without tension it slides on the rope, but under tension it will not slide. Climbers use this knot, so it must be reliable.

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post #10 of 14 Old 05-09-2011
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[QUOTE=IslanderGuy;728673]
I still use a climbing harness for safety, using a halyard when someone else is available. I also have a short rope loop on the harness I can loop around the mast which holds me snug to the mast while working. I can lean back against the rope loop and not swing away from the mast.

Going up alone I just use the loop on the harness around the mast, and lift it past the steps before folding them down on the way up. This way if I should slip or break a step or whatever, the loop can not slide down past the step, so I can only fall a few feet. Painful still I am sure, but better then hitting the deck! I am not sure this would work for you Casey with fixed steps, but perhaps some variation would.
QUOTE]

I have a climbing harness and I think the loop method would work good.
Thanks, Casey
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