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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I need to change the anchor light, so I am looking for some equipment to climb the mast. I read some articles about Bosun's chair. I would appreciate any recommendations about what equipment I should use. Thanks, Paul
 

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Paul,

I, and others here, could attempt to tell you the 10 step process to safely ascend and slowly decend a mast, but if you've never done it (please pardon me if I"m wrong, but I've inferred that from how you've asked the question), I suggest you find someone who has and get them to help you. Ideally, you should get a professional rigger who, without doubt, will know exactly what they are doing. Watch what they do, ask lots of questions and take notes. Next time you can try it yourself.

Going up a mast is not complicated, but it is dangerous unless you know how to do it. Reading how it's done on a blog can be dangerous as there is no way anyone here can know exactly what the set up on your boat is. A professional rigger will carefully assess your situation before they go up the mast. Ask them what they're doing and why. It will cost you something, but you'll learn a lot and you're certain to go home for dinner (vs to the hospital) when it's done.
 

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I agree.. experience is a great teacher and well worth a few $'s
There was a thread on here I think about a guy in his 50's that fell from the spreaders and fractured one ankle/foot/shin on the deck so badly it had to be amputated..that's not worth $100..
 

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I need to change the anchor light, so I am looking for some equipment to climb the mast. I read some articles about Bosun's chair. I would appreciate any recommendations about what equipment I should use. Thanks, Paul
Are you going up the mast by yourself, and have to ascend and descend unassisted? Are you going up the mast and will have assistance that can winch you up the stick? Are you going up the mast and will have assistance that can help with winching a safety line, but is not capable of winching you up the mast?

The technique and equipment you need may vary, depending on your answers.

Also, it would help if you said what boat you were doing this on...
 

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Hey, Pkats. While what the other guys said about caution is always good, there's such a thing as being over-cautious. Climb the stick yourself unless you're not confident in the rig or you just don't want to.

You have lots of options, but they boil down to something like this:

1) Use a bosun's chair and have somebody crank you up. That can be a pain in the ass for the cranker and it takes a while. Plus, your life is in their hands.
2) Use a bosun's chair or harness and a tackle to hoist yourself up. I've heard people talk about 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, etc. but you're going to need a lot of line and some expensive blocks.
3) Use some climbing/ascending gear and a static line. ATN makes a product called a TopClimber. I use it and think it works just fine. Other guys prefer making their own setups using better-quality climbing gear. If you have experience rock climbing and know your climbing knots and hardware, then this is a good idea. Either way, you don't need someone to hoist you up. Just have them standing by to watch out for you, taunt you if you start to chicken out (not that I would know), send beers up on a utility line (always appreciated), or maybe even tend a backup line for you.

Just be careful, but that's perfectly obvious.

Enjoy the view. :D
 

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buy a climbing harness for $40 and get a friend to haul you up on a halyard.
 

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The fine and prudent sailors who have posted here may not agree with my opinion on this matter, but here goes... In my opinion, ascending the mast is far safer than most people think it is. If you can get two or three strong men or women to haul you up with a sound halyard attached to a sound shackle that his held up by a reasonably sound rig and mast, then you'll be fine. The drive to the marina will likely be more dangerous than the trip up the mast. When I go up, I like to keep my hands and feet loosely about the mast. If there's a failure, then I"m sliding down the to the spreaders or the deck with a belly burn. Once at the masthead, I clip into the spinnaker halyard.

Having said this, you'll need to closely inspect the shackle and halyard before you go up. YOu need to look for any signs of potential failure. I use electrical tape to secure the shackle in the closed position. Have an experienced sailor check your work. I prefer going up on an all-rope halyards tied with to the shackle with a bowline. Be very careful. Once suspended in the chair, bounce around a bit before you go up. Does everything feel solid? Do you feel like you're going to slip out the front? Is the wind blowing too much? Are any boats wakes going to throw you around? If you don't feel comfortable on the way up, then come down and call a professional rigger.

Anyway, I'm never take unnecesary risks when sailing. I'm not unnaturally afraid of heights and I'm not a thrill-seeker. My bottom line is this: I like to know what's going on at the masthead of my boat, which means I"m going up there on a fairly regular basis. I'm always getting the call to send a friend to the the top of their mast, and I'm calling them to send me to the top of mine. After having done this many times, I feel very comfortable with the process.

By the way, WM has a good bosun's chair on sale right now for $150. On a final note, take a digital camera with you so that you can photograph the rigging once you're aloft for later inspection. Good luck and be careful.
 

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Come on guys!

"Get someone to crank you up" -- do you know how tall the mast is? do you know what the guy weighs? do you know the condition of the haulyard? or the sheeve box? or the size / capacity of the winch? or how corroded the fasters are that are holding the winch to the mast? the experience of the 'cranker', or more importantly, the tailer? (I think the answer is, you don't.)

"Use a 'sound' haulyard, a 'sound' shackel.......a 'reasonably sound' rig and mast " -- Define "sound". Now, define "reasonably sound". That's like saying you should only cross an ocean in a boat that's in "good" condition.


If you're giving advice on how to bed a cleat or how to adjust a sail track you can afford to be "off the cuff" in what advice you offer. But people get hurt / killed going up masts, and the pro's are ultra-careful --- they know exactly what they're doing and they know it's dangerous.

Paul, hire a rigger or find a friend to help you -- someone who's done it many times before and in whom you will trust your life.

PS -- and, if you hire a rigger, ask him to give the rig quick check on the way down. It won't cost you any more. You'll get a new anchor light, a rig inspection and lots of useful knowledge for your $100.
 

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For crying out loud, mellow out.... I think most sailors know what a sound halyard and shackle look like. I noted that many prudent sailors on this site would disagree. The dangers of climbing the mast are obvious: you could fall. In my opinion I think that aquiring the wherewithall to climb your own mast safely is a worthwhile endeavor. I carry a bosun's chair on my boat in the event that I'm out and about and I shake loose a shackle and need to retrieve it. I guess I could call a rigger and have him meet me 50 away miles up the Coosaw River... or I could get my own busun's on my own boat and fetch my own shackle and be on my merry way...
 

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I'm probably 'some kind of nut', but was sent up the mast this past weekend to investigate a windex and mast light that were hanging loose by the light wires. I have no experience with this and it was my first day with the new (to me) boat in it's slip for the first time this season. I weigh 230 lbs and am 6'1". I guess if I had read this thread first and/or hadn't been such a newbie, I probably would have never allowed myself to be sent up there.

Our slip neighbor had a very nice bos'n chair...really more of a harness than a chair. My boat is equipped with the 'wood board' type of chair and, having been on top the mast with the nicer rig, there's no way in hell you'd get me up there with anything less.

I was scared sh*tless, but found out what I needed to know - that the stainless stock that supports both of these had snapped in two, that I didn't have the right tools with me to repair it, and that it would either take another couple trips up the mast or stepping the mast to repair. We decided to pay the marina to step the mast and fix it for us for $200. Money well spent.

I'm glad I went up the mast, just so I personally know what's entailed. I don't think I'll be doing it again anytime soon, unless I absolutely have to.

But if you're hell bent on it, get the very best equipment that you can get, double check all of your gear, make sure you have *everything* you need before going up, have some help via being winched up on the main halyard and get a second line on if you can. Don't attempt on anything but a very calm day and know that it's no piece of cake. And, people below, stay out of the way of falling tools.
 

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Now if you weigh 300 pounds and are thinking of going up the mast on a water balasted MAC without water then you might give it another thought.:laugher :laugher :laugher
 

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Now if you weigh 300 pounds and are thinking of going up the mast on a water balasted MAC without water then you might give it another thought.:laugher :laugher :laugher
Just tip the boat over w/ a halyard and bring the mast down to you. :)
 

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Well

I do a LOT of stuff that could be fatal if the lifting system fails and when i look at sailboat parts and the ratings i see on them i really shake my head when i see a tiny shackle with and 8000# rating on it :)

You are pretty bold to go up anything that sits out in the weather without a backup becasue i can never look at them and figure out how much the Uv and time has done :) and you know what the say about OLD BOLD PILOTS
 

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IMHO, you should never trust your life or safety to a shackle. Shackles can fail unexpectedly. I never use a shackle to fasten the halyard to my climbing harness. I use a bowline.
 

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Mast mate option

Another option you can use to get to the top of the mast, without any help from large-biceped individuals, is a product called the Mast Mate. It is basically a ladder made of heavy webbing that is hoisted in the mainsail track just as the main would be. I have used it and it has a kind of sponge-like feel to it. You don't swing around as you might on a chair but you are somewhat limited in that your feet are always essentially right alongside the mast. You have to lean back against the safety belt to get both hands free like the old telephone/telegraph pole climbers.
 

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IMHO, you should never trust your life or safety to a shackle. Shackles can fail unexpectedly. I never use a shackle to fasten the halyard to my climbing harness. I use a bowline.
Dog, I'm with you on knots vs hardware.....but to my point about each situation being different, a rigger told me a story last year about a guy who watched the knot holding him slip (and he fell) because the haulyard was one of the new high-tech fibers with a very low friction coefficient. Experienced guy, been up many times before, knew enough to tie the right knot but it was a new type of line. The rigger told me the decision of how to attach the haulyard to the chair now depends on the type of line.

Hog, Mellow? Who's stressed!! :cool: I'm not saying NEVER to it. I'm not saying don't bother to learn how to do it. What I did say was that the first time you do it, you should be in the company of knowledgeable people. (I suspose in that regard, it's a lot like sex :) ).

Corny, it doesn't take much experience to be hauled up the mast. Where you want the experience is on deck. The guy up the stick is, in most instances, a passenger whose safety is highly dependent on the knowledge and good judgement of those on the other end of the line.
 

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Urban legend or true????

I can't vouch for it's veracity, but the worst "up the mast" story I've ever heard concerned a couple (man and wife) several days into an offshore passage when something happens to require him to go up the mast. She cranks him up and when he arrives at the mast head he ties himself off (as all smart mast climbers to) and he begins working on whatever it was that sent him up there. Before he's finished, he has a massive heart attack and dies. His wife has no way to get him down, so she motors? sails? the boat three days back to port with papa-san at the mast head.

My wife hates it when I tell that story! Now when I go up the mast she makes me use the spare haulyard as the safety line which she controls from a second winch on deck.
 

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I have a really good Bosun's chair - and I never use it. Instead I use a climbing harness, lash tools to the gear loops, and use a flag halyard as a tool messenger in case I forget something.

I wouldn't trust a shackle - I use a double bowline and a locking carabiner. I usually don't have anyone on board I really want hoisting me, so I climb with Petzl ascenders (similar to Jumars) with a prusik backup to a halyard different from the one I'm climbing. I keep climbing gear on the boat anyway.

I love and trust my wife, but she doesn't feel comfortable belaying me climbing, nor hoisting me on the boat. I've sent my 12 YO up the mast several times, first when he was 9, but always in a climbing harness, and always with a prusik backup to a separate halyard.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Guys, thank you so much for the input.
Sailingdog, to answer your question: I am 155lbs, boat is 343 Beneteau and I am definitely going to have my friend (he is quite capable and experienced) to host me up the mast. My question was more like: what is better climbing harness or bosun's chair... Maybe I will just follow the advise and hire somebody to do it for the first time...
 

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Harness, all the way. I went up in one bosun's chair, thought I was going to fall out of it. Now when I crew on other people's boats, I pack my harness with my foulies. Never leave home w/o it.
 
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