Thursday, February 16, 2017

MastMate--Climbing the Mast the Easy Way

Rope-based mast climbing systems are all the rage--and they do have the advantage of simplicity--but my good old rope ladder has served me well for 25 years. Heck, the surveyor I used on my current boat used a Mast Mate. But there are a few tricks that help.

The most common criticism leveled against hoisted ladders, like the Mastmate, is that the sail must be lowered and removed from the  track. In actual fact, the sail can remain in place, either stacked on the mast or hoisted.

A climbing harness would be much better.
  • Hoist Inside the Track. However, outside works too.  The instructions are adamant that it MUST be in the track, and it is easier to climb that way. But I've been setting it free for 20 years. After hoisting to the top, lower 6 inches, clip the lowest eye to something solid, and tension hard with the halyard winch. To me, it simply isn't worth unloading a part of the sail, opening the mast gate, and fooling with 30 slugs.
  • Wear a Climbing Harness. It should fit tightly enough on the waist that it can NOT be slid off, even if you were to fall upside down. If this is not possible because of physique, you cannot climb. Extra padding on the leg loops helps.
  • Use a Second Halyard as a Safety Line. I tension the spinnaker halyard and secure it to the mast base. I then run an ascender (rope grab) up the line to protect against falls and to allow rest. Alternatively, a crew member can tail the safety line on a winch. Do NOT use the self tailing feature; lock it off with a jammer or cleat.
  • Wear slim profile shoes. Easier to get in the steps. I'm happy with deck shoes. Most running shoes stink.
  • When not in use, store the ladder coiled, from top to bottom, with the steps flattened in the correct position. This will insure that they open correctly and will make hoisting easier (won't catch on the spreaders). Secure with twine to make certain it stays that way. when hoisting, open the steps as they go up.
Coil for storage. I'm a "crammer" by nature, and I can tell you from experience, it is a mistake. Store it this way, every time.
  • Carry several slings and carabiners for securing yourself at work locations. 4,500 pounds minimum breaking strength.
  • Do not carry any tools while climbing. Haul these up with a trail line. I like an electricians bag.
  • Haul up a climbing rope. Use this to rappel down, saving time and effort.
  • Wear gloves while climbing. Vinyl coated work gloves like Atlas Fit grip the mast well.
 I dump the tools out and take only what I need.

I wear a well-padded climbing harness. Wear shoes with minimal tread or they will hang-up going into the steps (you can't slip out). rubber faced gloves really help. It takes lass than a minute to climb this 30-foot stick.

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