My uncle, whoís a keen sailor, asked me the other day how do you get down from the top of a mast? Apparently he had a sailing techniques book which explained how to ascend the mast (with ascenders)but didnít go into how to get down. Iíd probably recommend trailing rope up, fixing it to the top and descending on a belay device backed up by a shunt as this is pretty fool proof but does anyone know if thereís a 'correct' way?
In reply to ebdon: Whenever I have been up a mast, I have been winched up in a bosons chair. When you want to come down, you are then winched down. Do you mean if you are on a single handed yacht and need to do maintenance on the run? If so, I am not convinced about the abseil method, especially if the mast is pitched over at an angle.
In reply to ebdon:
Irving Johnson's film about rounding the Horn in typical weather shows him doing it another way; pinch-gripping the outer edge of the mainsail and sliding down it. Luckily for him the captain didn't see him doing it.
In reply to EeeByGum: Unfortunately i know sod all about sailing my uncles boat is what i would class as 'medium' size it can sleep about 3-4 people and requires 2 to sail it (i think), so I presumably too small to be winched up?
If he went up the mast with ascenders why doesn't he just come back down using the same method? All you do is the opposite to going up, ie. when hanging from one, you release the grip of the other, slide it down however much suits you and let it block again then transfer your weight onto the lower one so that you can release the higher one, slide it down, block it and transfer your weight again. The same as you would do on a building or anytime you want to move down instead of up slowly and safely.
The way I've seen* it done is... Take a large knife and thrust it in to the mainsail, then while holding tightly to the knife, jump. The energy expended cutting the fabric nicely controls the rate of descent. Care should be taken in marrying the correct sharpness of knife with the gauge of fabric used in the sail.
In reply to ebdon: If it can sleep 4 people then it'll have winches. Normal technique would be to have 2 halyards clipped to a bosons chair/harness one for being winched up, which the person going up the mast would usually climb as well to assist the wincher, and one as a safety. To come down it's up the wincher to gently lower the winchee down. Though theoretically if you were jumaring up you could have 2 halyards rigged one for aiding up and one to abseil down.
I wouldn't bother with being winched up. It's hard work, requires at least two people, and makes you reliant on bits of equipment that may not get serviced as regularly as they should. Also the potential for riding turns is quite high, especially when the winchee is pulling themselves up too.
Way I do it is a double rope hoisted up on a halyard. Tension one side to the deck for easy climbing, and abseil on the other.
Also, if you're feeling athletic, it can be quite quick to just layback up the mast with a shunt at your waist for protection.
> I guess you could come down on ascenders, I've never tried it (whilst climbing) but i thought it was meant to be a total arse?
No more than going up! It might depend on the sort of ascender - I've got some old jumars which are very easy to use, you can hold the cam open with your thumb while moving it but a metal piece prevents it opening completely and coming off the rope. I used this method when clearing ivy off an old building inches a long job as the ivy was 8 thick at the bottom and even near the top a couple of inches in place.
On the other hand I was wondering what size of rope he would jumar up? Most sail halyards are thinner than climbing ropes, aren't they?
As said mostly people seem to have themselves winched up and down, which requires a second person. I saw a boat which was regularly used by a lone sailor and he had fixed aluminium rungs up the mast.
In reply to ebdon:
Having done every possible way Iīd guess (one of the pleasures of working in boatbuilding) the best is to learn to ascend with one ascender and a Grigri and then remove the ascender and ab down on the Grigri. Just as one does route setting or bolting routes.
Standard practice is to use TWO halyards to haul up a length of climbing or static rope of a suitable diameter for a Grigri.
In reply to ebdon: If there's someone to winch, I tension one spare halyard and put a shunt on it to to my harness, then get winched up on another halyard. You can take the weight off the winch line to help. Coming down you let the winch monkey control your rate of descent, and hold the shunt in one hand ready to let go in case you're dropped.
If your'e worried about the shunt on the halyard, use the halyard to tension another line that you're not worried about. My dad carried a bit of 10mm line in his tool bag just for that job.
Same backup for mast climbing alone, but I'd avoid that unless absolutely necessary.
In reply to ebdon: i was working last year with a guy who owns a yacht, he was asking me about climbing kit ascenders n stuff for the very same reason, apparently there is a specialised piece of kit for ascending/descending masts, but he said it was very expensive £200-£300!!