/ Climbing my yacht mast

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Sam longley on 01 Nov 2012 -
I have a yacht with a 14.5 m high mast. In the past friends have winched me up it in a bosuns chair but as i weigh 18 stone & am 65 years old this is a chore
If i was to try this on my own is there a set of equipment i can purchase to do it & where could i get training on how to use it( i live near southminster essex. Cm0 7ly.) & what items would i need to buy?
Most marine systems seem expensive or heath robinson.
I assume climbing harnesses are good for comfort. Everyone i have spoken to tell me that the one used by sailors- the spinlock- is really uncomfortable & cuts blood flow to the legs

Please do not say" forget it" as i have to solve the problem as i sail single handed a lot & go up the mast 3-4 times a year

Many thanks in anticipation
Sam longley
Trangia on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley:

Presumably you pull yourself up on the main sheet? If that gets tiring maybe you could rig up a shunt to lock off on and give yourself a rest?
winhill - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley:

If you have a bridge nearby it might be better to moor under the bridge, go ashore and try to jump from the bridge to the mast?

If you're at sea, alone then it's a bit tricky. Single rope techniques don't offer much to do with your arms, so it's all leg work and you might find you're swinging out from the mast a bit and getting thumped about when you swing back in.

A webbing mast ladder might be better, plus you can tie it off as you ascend, so it is kept closer to the mast, if you can't use the track for some reason.

A tree surgeon's harness might be more comfortable than a climbing harness, as they are less about weight saving and more about comfort for sitting in for long periods, or use your bosun's.
GrahamD - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley:

I would assume that using a winch on the main halyard was the lowest effort way of doing this, but if you want to do it on your own the nearest system I can think of is a caving SRT rig. Whether that works reliably (without back up) on a halyard I don't know - depends on the diameter of the rope.
Rubbishy - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley:

Having been up the mast sorting out mangled kites in all sorts of weather, I usually just clip into my climbing harness and shimmy up the rigging in my Dubarry's then get winched up the rest.

However, when time allows I use a caver's harness and a croll and a jumar, with a mate taking in on a halyard as a safety back up line which is used to lower me back down.

The caving rig basically provides two "clamps". THe croll is linked at chest height and the jumar, looks like a large metal handle, goes above. You connect a long loop to the jumar, and put your feet in it. As you stand up the croll rides up the halyard, then locks when you put weight on it. You then take the weight off your feet (via the croll) and push the jumar up and repeat.

If you are feeling really brave both pieces of kit can be replaced by things called Petzl Tiblokes, but these can be iffy in extrmis and chew up the halyard after time.

To make life easier, a crew member can still take some weight on the safety halyard.

This is a bit extreme but gives you an iodea what goes where. A local caving club or climbing wall should be able to take you through the basics.
Rubbishy - on 01 Nov 2012
Rubbishy - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to John Rushby:

oh and that's tiblocs, not Tiblokes, that could lead to google hell.....
muppetfilter - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley: Hi Sam, is it possible to leave an 11mm/10.5mm semi static rope rigged to the top of the mast?If not then I am sure you can work a system to send a rope up and back down to rig it.
A really simple and comfortable system would involve a single rope, a Petzl ID , a hand jammer, a foot loop , climbing sit harness and a petzl Boss seat.
If you are sailing alone I would suggest you consider a system where you can self lower to the ground easily and with no fuss.
What I have been listed can be used to climb, The Id is a device that can be used to both climb a rope and descend in control and the boss seat is comfortable to sit in for hours and doesnt hinder climbing.
jkarran - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley:

Is there not an established yachting solution to what must be a pretty common problem? Climbing equipment won't react well to life on a yacht, you'll have dangerous corrosion problems in no time.

If it was me looking for a simple reliable solution I'd be tempted to go for a plastic rope ladder. Combine it with a caving harness (or marine equivalent assuming there is one), a couple of dynamic-rope cows tails and stainless hardware. A system like that could be used safely with little training and would be relatively comfortable but it could equally easily be dangerously abused.

None of the single rope (SRT) or multi-rope roped access techniques are especially simple or elegant, they're more focused on mechanical efficiency (SRT) and safety (roped access techniques). They are also heavily reliant on expensive aluminium/bi-metallic kit that simply will not last in a marine environment.

davebrown3 - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley: The easy solution when you're not single handed is to do exactly what you have been doing, but to use a second line as well. With the second line create a foot-loop at the end (overhand knot or any knot). Then you stand up in the foot loop, your mates take in the line to your seat. (they don't need the winch as they are not pulling you up, they just need to use the clutches in order to lock it off each time. Then you sit down, they pull up the foot-loop line about a metre. Then you stand up in the footloop, and repeat. That way they are not hauling you, and you are using hardly any effort.

If you are single handed then I suggest you get hold of a Petzl catalogue. There are good explanations of different methods of ascending and descending a rope. Having been up a couple of masts recently I reckon you would have to be pretty brave to go up on your own when you're out at sea!
jkarran - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley:

muppetfilter's suggestion is neat and importantly safe with a little training/practice. You'd have to take great care washing and drying the kit after use though.

pwo - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley: I too have a yacht and typically climb the mast once per year (maybe two) and all I use is a simple system used by tree surgeons and self rescue. Take your main halyard and tie into your harness as usual but leave a 'tail' of approx 1 metre. Use this tail to tie a prussic around your descending halyard then simple prussic up the main and use a second prussic for both legs to stand in. As back up my wife (or crew) use the second halyard as a safety line (wrapped around the winch). When I get to the top I tie a safety strop around the mast so I can lean backward and stand in my leg strops.
Wonko The Sane on 01 Nov 2012 - whois?
In reply to Sam longley: Secure the halyard and prussik up and down it? I've done this. Not pretty, but effective. Other alternative, fit 'ladder steps' to the mast if it lends itself to it.

I have heard of a remote control windlass being used. I did it using slings, it was uncomfortable, but shifting weight occasionally helped. How long are you planning to be up there?
jimtitt - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley:

I´ve climbed loads of masts, one of the penalties of working in a boatyard!
Get a suitable length of 10mm static rope. Tie a bowline on the bight in the end as short as possible. Using any two halyards/topping lift (never one) whatever send the rope up the mast.
Get a Grigri and some other ascender. Get someone to show you how to use them! (the route setters in the nearest climbing wall would be ideal).
The main difficulty is getting high enough up to work on the masthead and you want somewhere to clip a footloop up the top so you can stand up, climbing harnesses aren´t that comfotable for long periods either unless you go for a big-wall harness which is a bit over the top for occasional use. On my own yacht I had a pair of fold-out mast steps fitted at the top for this which is quite a common solution though later I just changed to steps all the way up which is the way to go!
If you are going up at sea then you need a sling around the mast and karabiner to clip into the harness to stop you swinging away from the mast. It slides up with you and you unclip to get past the spreaders.

The alternative is a tape ladder which goes up the mast track, personally I found these an awkward solution but then I´m used to climbing ropes.
Sam longley on 01 Nov 2012 -
Thanks everyone
I have printed this post & will study a my leisure. The main thing is that it is possible & it is great that some of you have lready been their & got the T shirt
Sam longley
Rigid Raider - on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley:

Can't you fold the mast?
ian caton on 30 Nov 2012
In reply to Sam longley:

My pennyworth

4 seperate parts to problem

1. get up mast
2. work safely when up there
3. get back down
4. have redundancy built in at all stages so if you cock up or something breaks you don't fall.

keep it simple. use same system to come down as go up so no changing over at top of mast so Prussick knots seem good to me. Experiment with different thicknessess of cord to find which one grips and moves the best when used on your main halyard.

i would be tempted to use jib halyard and perhaps topping lift secured as back up. Tying them off to harness with figure of eight. Then retying as you move up so you can't ever fall far.

have a system

do lots of practise close to ground, hanging from a tree, until you are happy with your system.

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