Friday, April 25, 2014

Go Climb A Mast

When I was last in Denver, I picked up a rock climbing harness in lieu of a Bosuns chair so I could climb the mast.  At that time I mentioned I had a couple lights that needed to be checked out.  The weather finally improved this week so it was time to go check on those lights.

What I used to climb the mast.

I tried finding some people at the docks that would help winch me up, but it seemed most people decided to go take advantage of the nice weather (I can't blame them) and I was unable to find help. So, I decided to give climbing with ascenders a try.

I constructed a couple foot loops out of some line I had with bowline loops tied to the ends (see...those knots come in handy) and tied them to one ascender.  The climbing harness was attached to the other ascender with a carabiner.  Since I've never done this before, I decided I would just try getting up to the deck light that is about 1/3 of the way up the mast.

My boat is rigged with a halyard for a spinnaker, and that was the line I decided to use.  I rigged the halyard so I could pull it tight and then attached the ascenders to the line.  I put on the climbing harness, hooked the bag containing my tools and a tube of dielectric grease to one of the gear loops, and attached the harness to the topmost ascender. It didn't take very long to figure out that I had made the leg loops a little too long, so I retied the bowline loops (twice) in the process of getting things where it seemed comfortable.

Then began the long process of inching my way up the line.  I stood up in the leg loops, slid the upper ascender up the rope, sat back in the harness and slid the foot loop ascender up.  After doing this once or twice, I stopped and just hung there for a bit.  Figured when I was only a couple feet above the deck was a good time to make sure everything would indeed hold.  A couple minutes looking like I was a new attachment to the boat and I continued my trek up the mast.

After a little time doing my impression of an inchworm, I was at the deck light.  I released the light clips and it didn't take much time to figure out the problem with the light.  Nope, not a burned out light bulb or bad connection...well...guess I could call it a bad connection...a wire corroded through is bad, right?  Of course, I didn't have crimp on terminals or crimpers with me (I didn't know what type of connection I would find on the back of the bulb), so no way I could fix it while I was up there.  Oh well, at least now I know what the problem is...and I also know I can climb the mast by myself if I ever need to.

I also learned that people spend way too much money on gym memberships.  For the money spent, you could probably get a sailboat and have all the exercise equipment you need.  Or just go hang out at a marina and you could probably find someone to pay you to exercise...while fixing their boat.

Sorry I didn't get any pictures of the climb...maybe next time...when I can get someone to help winch me up the mast.  In my earlier post about getting the harness, someone suggested that the climbing harnesses are not very comfortable...honestly I didn't feel uncomfortable during all of this, but that may have something to do with being able to distribute weight into the foot loops or just the adrenaline of the whole thing.  I did feel secure in the harness...and that was the primary reason I chose the harness over a chair.

In any case, in the next few days I'll need to go back up the mast with the right tools and see if I can get the deck light working and well as make my way the rest of the way up to check on the anchor light.


  1. I bought one of these last year for solo ascension since I plan on departing on my own for a while. I'm 64. I have a total knee replacement. I should lose ten pounds. It is a tad clumsy but I made it up 62' in about 45 minutes. What a workout. Coming down was easier, as expected. It's a whole lot easier if there is someone on a winch to hike you up - if that someone is in control, that is. Don't forget a safety line atop. Plenty of knots have come undone resulting in nasty falls to the deck.

    1. The ascenders in your kit look about like the one that came with my boat...wonder if there were originally two and one was lost or not left with the boat. Looks about like the same setup I ended up with...just differing parts. It is definitely a workout. I didn't find going down to me much easier.

      When I go all the way up, was planning on using the main halyard and using the spinnaker halyard as a safety.