LAHOWIND » Just you, me, + the dog.

(Halfway) Up the Mast!

With sailboat ownership, sooner or later, someone has to climb the mast. Something will need fixing, or checking, or replacing.  It’s inevitable really.

And in our case, we definitely needed to replace our broken spreader lights (halfway up the mast) before we set sail.

Our windvane, located at the very top of the mast, is also waiting to be replaced (We apparently didn’t even realize we had a wind vane until someone pointed out a random rod at the top of the mast and told us it was a portion of an old wind vane. We figure a pelican probably sat on the vane and broke it.). We also still need to replace our wind anemometer and check the halyard sheaves.

So guess who got sent climbing this weekend?  Jereme, of course!

Luckily, I am not skilled in the electrical/re-wiring department, so Jer was the only viable candidate.:)

However, since Jer was the one being hoisted up the mast with only Oliver and I left to do the actual hoisting, that left us with one small problem — I’m not so sure if I’m strong enough to hoist Jereme up by myself, nor do I really know how the heck to get him up there…so we enlisted the help of others.

A huge thank you goes to Capt. Todd Wilson (at Sailboats Unlimited) who helped winch Jereme up the mast (and safely back down).  Todd is hands down “the guy” you go see at the Naples City Dock when you have a question about anything sailing/boating/marine related. He knows everything and has been such a great resource and help to us, offering up TONS of valuable information that we are super grateful for. Plus, he was kind enough to lend us a hand for our first ever mast climb.

Back to the actual climb… There are several well-known methods of climbing a mast. And by methods, I simply mean the support system that is going to protect the climber from falling.  There’s the well-known bosuns chair, climbing step systems, climbing ladders, rock climbing harnesses, and more.

After much deliberation, Jereme opted for the rock-climbing harness. It’s cost-effective, safe (a well-fitting harness is something you can’t fall out of unlike a bosun’s chair), and easy to store. However, its comfort score could use some improvement.  (The next time Jereme climbs the mast, we might try borrowing someone’s bosuns chair and opt for a combo harness+bosun climb.)

After Jer was safely secured in his rock climbing harness and attached to the main halyard, the actual hoist up the mast was pretty darn quick (but mostly just because Todd was helping and knows what the heck he’s doing). Once up there, Jereme got to work replacing the first light. I can’t even imagine how disabling it must feel to be elevated so high up, feeling rather uncomfortable, while still trying to complete a seemingly simply DIY project.  But not surprisingly, Jereme carefully worked through removing the old light, cutting the wires, screwing in the mounting hardware  for the new light, attaching the new wires, and bolting on the new LED light like a pro! And he only dropped 1 thing…a tiny plastic wire connector. 😉  The whole process from start to finish took a little over an hour. Not bad, right?

Now that Jer’s successfully been up the mast once, he’s learned a few things. Here’s what he would do differently the next time around (which will be happening very soon):

  • He would definitely wear shoes and gloves (for gripping/traction while going up the mast). He was barefoot and gloveless this time.
  • He would bring a different tool bag/satchel. Specifically, one that doesn’t shut — sort of a bucket style, if you will. The one he used was too small and difficult to open/close while suspended in the air.
  • He recommends only bringing the tools you definitely need. It’s a pain searching through extra tools to find what you’re looking for.
  • And of course, he recommends doing as much as you possibly can while still firmly on the ground.

Some other fun highlights of J’s mast climbing adventure included a power boat that ignored the very clearly marked “no wake” zone in Naples Bay and got some rather choice words from the dock employees (thanks guys for looking out for us!). The boaters were pretty apologetic, but surprisingly Jereme didn’t even seem to notice the wave action. And then there were the random passer-byers that continuously tried to start convos with Jereme while he was suspended up in the air, totally uncomfortable, trying to get the job done. Did they think he was just up their hanging around enjoying the view or something?

All in all, it was an uneventful mast climbing, and that’s the way we plan to keep it!

PS – I made Jer wear the GoPro + headband combo up the mast (and turned it on for him right before he went up). We had 77 minutes of recorded video (mostly closeup shots of the pelican poop on the spreader), so I attempted to piece together a < 2 minute video to give you an idea of the mast climb… but let’s not lie, it’s certainly NOT our most stellar video production. Have a look! 😉

PSS – I don’t know what the heck was going on with vimeo today, but they wouldn’t let me select my own thumbnail image for the preview below (like I always do) or even upload an image. Weird.

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing.

JackieFebruary 13, 2014 - 4:58 pm

That sounds just like the first time Ron went up the mast-including getting waked! We have a climbing harness too, Ron said his legs fell asleep and has plans to tie a loop to the harnes so he can stand to work and take pressure off his legs. We also used a carabiner that grips rope with a foot hold on it (don’t ask me what this is really called!). This was VERY helpful to me since it took a lot of his weight off the main sheet he was harned to (it was hooked to another line). It might not be the best system but it works…and those bosun chairs aren’t cheap! :)

LAHOWINDFebruary 13, 2014 - 6:09 pm

Jereme’s legs were total mush after 1 light! I think that harness does a number on leg circulation. Did you hoist Ron up yourself? I think I could maybe do it, but we definitely didn’t want to risk it seeing as this was our very first attempt. We just had a buddy offer us one of his bosuns chairs to use with the harness next time (which should be very very soon). :) -Kim

WAVETOTHEWINDFebruary 13, 2014 - 10:42 pm

We recently tackled this project too! We decided to pick up a quality bosuns chair, and we’re so glad we did. (We’re also glad to have it in case we’re out on the ocean and have to go aloft. Yikes!) After clear instructions from our rigger, I hoist my husband up by myself. It’s a workout, but he helps by monkey-ing himself up a bit too. He also wears a safety harness – always have backup!

Kelley - Sailing ChanceFebruary 13, 2014 - 11:23 pm

You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll actually go up the mast. Jason gets so impatient with me slowly cranking him up that I usually end up there. We also use a harness. THe only downside is that after a while up there your legs start to go numb and you have to literally put your legs over your head to get the feeling back. When Jason had some serious work to do while installing our radar he used a bosuns and the harness and was much more comfortable. We just don’t trust the bosuns – it seems so easy to fall out of!

[…] owning the boat, Jereme has only been up the mast (well, halfway up) one other time. And that was to replace our spreader lights. When Jer went up the mast that first time back in our […]