Climbing the mast of a sailboat is relatively easy if you have some friends with a lot of muscle that can winch you up to the top. It helps to be sure they will let you down afterward. It’s also easy if you have a power winch that can handle the load of sending you up, in which case the muscles of the friends are not as important.
Since I’m short the power winch and friends aren’t always available (especially after the first time) masterracksbd I have had to find another way to the top. Originally I looked into a block and tackle set up. While that would have done the job nicely, when you go to store the almost 400 foot of line it would take to get to the top of my boats mast, it gets tangled quickly.
Another option that I looked into was putting steps on the mast. The steps would make it a lot like climbing a ladder. Once again there were drawbacks. The steps would add a lot of windage to the mast. Even though they are relatively light individually, altogether they would add a lot of weight high on the mast. Those added to the fact that I really didn’t like the look of steps on mast, nixed that option.
The answer I was looking for finally came when I was watching a show about rock climbing. For me it was an eye opener to the possibility of using some of their tools. Luckily there was an establishment that specialized in the rock climbing experience that had been set up in an old church (this was before you could find the portable walls at every little fair). I talked with the guys there and explained what I had seen. They told me that what I was after was a pair of Ascenders and then showed me how they worked.
Ascenders are mechanical grippers that a line is placed into. Once the line is placed in the track of the ascender, the trigger is released and clamps down on the line. When the line is clamped you could hang by your hand from the ascender and it will not give way. You ascend the rope by sliding one Ascender up and then following that with the other so that one is always locked in place. They will slide up easily when locked just not down.
The Ascenders are made for climbing rocks so adapting from facing a rock wall to facing a 8″ pole and being able to work has its challenges, but with a butt bucket (boatswain’s chair) and a few feet of nylon webbing those are solved. I hook one Ascender to the butt bucket and the webbing (sewn into foot straps) to the other.
I raise a line to the top of the mast by attaching it to a halyard. The line is placed in the Ascenders. From there it is a procedure of standing up in the straps and sliding the Ascender attached to the butt bucket up. Then sitting down and sliding the Ascender attached to the foot straps up. Repeat the process all the way to the top of the mast.
Coming down is accomplished by reversing the procedure. You have to release the trigger on the Ascender to allow it to slide down the line, and then lock it in place so it can take up the load while the other Ascender is released and lowered to its new position.
Terry Houwerzyl is a top-notch business coach out of San Antonio, Texas, who’s committed to helping you seek, plan, and execute your entrepreneurial vision. He’s been all over the map both professionally and personally, from serving in the Air Force to building custom chopper motorcycles, to showing Old English sheepdogs to racing sailboats. For many years, he played the role of a high-tech wizard, raking in a six-figure income as a computer programmer for the state government.
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