Adventures Aloft. Ascending the Mast for Repairs

The deed is done, but not without surprises.  Good news – I’m alive and unhurt, and didn’t have a panic attack.  Here’s how the trip shaped up:

Strapping into the chair, loading the pockets (didn’t need the canvas bags after all), was just a bit of organizing, mostly done already because of the work I’d done yesterday.

rick Bailey
Strapping in. I didn’t use the safety harness either, though I wore it.
Rick Bailey
I tied a bowline into the bosun’s chair rings, then attached the shackle to the rings too. This was a secure arrangement that had no chance of slipping or failure.

Ended up feeling completely secure in the chair, so I didn’t tie a halyard onto my harness.  On deck, I briefed the process and work list with my crew (Ruth, and my friend Frank from down the pier).  Then stepped into the line ascender. . .  and went no place.  Turns out the jaws were one size too large (though I had tested it before – tension causes the line to stretch and thin) to grip the line effectively. I’ll have to install a new cam cleat on it that works with smaller line.  Instead, I ascended the old-fashioned way, with Frank on the winch, and me scooting up with hands and legs as he cranked.

At the spreaders getting ready to work.
At the spreaders getting ready to work.

Arriving at spreader-height, I seized the shrouds to the spreaders with wire.  I was getting ready to simply tape the boots in place, when Frank suggested I take a precaution against UV damaging the tape and releasing the boots.  He recommended  lashing them on with waxed twine, then taping. That’s what I did, but needed a supply run via the flag halyard for twine and bee’s wax.

Rick Bailey
Bee’s wax and twine arrived via flag halyard.

After slotting the port shroud, I found it difficult to set the starboard side with arm power alone.  Legs are stronger than arms, and longer too.  Worked just fine.

Prehensile feet.
Prehensile feet.
Shroud seized to spreader with ss wire.
Shroud seized to spreader with ss wire.
Boot lashed with waxed twine.
Boot lashed with waxed twine.
Taped in place. I don't tape the bottom of the boot - this allows rain water to drain and air to circulate.
Taped in place. I don’t tape the bottom of the boot – this allows rain water to drain and air to circulate.

Done with spreaders and shrouds, I moved up one foot, and installed a bulb in the deck lamp.  Ruth tested the circuit and we determined that worked.  It’s missing a lens, knocked off by a random halyard slap at one point, so I put a piece of rigging tape across the lamp, hoping that would make it more difficult to knock out in the future.  It really needs a wire cage, or guard to protect it.

After a short break, it was on to the masthead.  Here I installed new blocks and halyards, un-installed an old block I didn’t trust and the halyard that ran through it.  I disconnected the top end of the old headstay with luff extrusion attached.  I knotted the old halyard through the eye, and let it down on deck, where Ruth and Frank caught it.  What I discovered regarding fitting sizes is the topic of another post.  Very interesting, to say the least.  I have questions that need researching, because while there appeared to nothing inherently unsafe about the hardware, I didn’t expect it to be (mis)sized the way it was.  Perhaps my expectations are wrong, here.

Removing the old headstay.
Removing the old headstay.

All work at the masthead was finished, excepting for inspecting the fittings.  I carefully inspected everything, and discovered a cracked tang on the starboard cap shroud.  Since port and starboard tangs are attached with the same bolt (through the mast), it is not possible to safely replace the fitting with the mast upright.  The rig has got to come down this winter.

Installing new blocks and spin halyards. The tang just left of the line and my hand is the one that's cracked. Right at the bolt hole is a hairline crack that bisects the hole.
Installing new blocks and spin halyards. The tang just left of the line and my hand is the one that’s cracked. Right at the bolt hole is a hairline crack that bisects the hole.

Ultimately, it appears that all of this could have been done with the rig on the ground, but I didn’t know that.  Anyway, there was very little expense besides time, that was wasted.  Just an 1.5 hours in the bosun’s chair installing gear that had to be replaced anyway. I also now have the advantage of working on the furler at my house instead of the boat yard. I have had the rig down in 4.5 years, and it turns out that was one year too long.  Should have had it down last winter and thoroughly gone over it all, especially considering that I’ve had a couple of little rigging problems this year.

I think a thorough going over could have averted those alarming situations.  Fortunately there was no damage due to failure.  And here’s the lesson: I just have to spend the money to pull the rig every fourth year. This is the safe and common-sense way to proceed.

This is part of a series of posts on tips for going up the sailboat mast for repairs.

For previous posts go to our sailing section. 

 

 

Rick Bailey

Rick Bailey sails the Chesapeake Bay with his wife, Ruth, on a Watkins 27 coastal cruiser. Rick is retired and writes the "middlebaysailing" blog (http://middlebaysailing.wordpress.com).

rick-bailey has 25 posts and counting.See all posts by rick-bailey

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: