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Date Posted: - Monday - 05/14/07 - 11:25pm
Author: Randall, Murre, M31
Subject: Going up the mast

For weeks now I’ve been eyeing a suspicious dark spot in the paint of the main mast just below the port spreader. This mast was stripped, sealed, and painted just last year, and I couldn’t imagine how I’d injured it so soon (a dent from an errant block that soaked up this winter’s rain?—had the plug I’d installed over the old spreader electrics pulled out?).

Even binoculars didn’t reveal its true nature. It was inscrutable even menacing; it wore on my very soul. Certainly it was rot; certainly the mast would fold passively over during the next good blow like an old man who’d dropped his cane.

So, last weekend I rigged two double blocks to the bosun’s chair and hauled myself up to have a look.

Employing two double blocks may make lifting one’s own weight up the mast a simple matter, but it adds tremendously to the vertiginous effect of dangling from the sky by a little bit o’ nothin. Knowing one’s grip controls one’s fate … gets … one’s … attention.

That the goal is to inspect potential rot in the thing one is climbing doesn’t sooth either.

I must have looked pale after the test run because Joanna laughed at me without any attempt at niceness. “You were hardly 20 feet off the deck!” she scoffed. “Ha ha ha!”

She made this remark from her usual position in the cockpit—reclining with a book and a Margarita and looking for all the world like a ship’s passenger, which, I reasoned with some spite, meant her opinion could be ignored out of hand by the ship’s rightful (not to mention able bodied and brave) crew.

My halyards are wire and rope, and I’ve hesitated attempting this maneuver before because Pardey (for one) suggests that trusting the wire to rope splice is foolish. It can’t be examined or proved safe. If it parts while my hands are busy hauling, I fall away from the mast. An unhappy thought.

But what is a good test if not a main sail at full tension? This the halyard gets with some frequency. And it’s not much more than 3 years old. So, I argued …

On the second attempt, I made it to the spreaders but with a shortness of breath not entirely due to exertion. Tying off with one hand is a trick, I learned, especially when the one hand is a bit shaky.

Gently I reached up to the dark spot and pricked it with a white fingernail. It was round as a quarter, blacker up close, and hard. It had fish scales in it. It was sea-bird poop, perfectly placed under the spreader so as not to wash away in the rain. It flicked right off.

But the deeply moral question remains. Should the wire to rope splice be trusted?

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Replies:

[> up the mast -- Mike Anthony, - Tuesday - 05/15/07 - 1:07pm

We have a 40 with stika spruce spars. I am a big man, 285 lbs, do you think I am too big to be hoisted up safely? I mean it seems like a lot of weight to put all the way up to the top.

Mike & Paula
S/V Tivoli


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[> [> the mast -- Randall, - Wednesday - 05/16/07 - 9:59pm

It’s one of those deeply personal questions that no one can answer but you, like “should I get a tattoo, become a Buddhist, marry that girl?”

I think it’s entirely safe …
-if your mast is healthy AND IN COLUMN
-if the support system is well found (stays, shrouds, hayards, bosun’s chair, etc.)
-and if you have a strong heart. :)

I don’t know numbers, but in column, your mast should be able to take tremendous downward pressure, I’d guess many times your weight. Proper staying means that side pressure (say if you’re swinging out to get at the end of the spreaders) is translated into downward pressure.

And from a practical standpoint, there’s no difference re weight on the mast between going up to the spreaders and going to the top.

That said, I couldn’t get myself above the spreaders. Hauling one's self up changes the dynamic. I lost my nerve.

RR


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[> [> [> The Mast -- Doug Wilson, - Wednesday - 05/16/07 - 10:40pm

I found a bunch of stainless mast steps at Minney's in Newport Beach and used them to install the radar on the mizzen. Still need to finish up on the foremast.Hope I have enough!
I'm getting too old for that much adventure.
Doug


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[> [> [> [> Mast Head -- Bruce (Gitana Vela), - Thursday - 05/17/07 - 5:56pm

Mike. I weight 205+ and have been up to the top of both masts of my Mariner 31. I have not noticed any undue "flex" in the masts, and have swung myself out to tne ends of both spreaders. I use a Top Climber Ascender
http://www.riggingonly.com/atn_top_climber.htm
I think you're okay, if not afraid of heights. Do it on a calm day:)


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