Passage Prep: Up the mast & our mast climbing rig

Carol in mast climbing mode

Carol went up the mast to do a visual (and tactile) inspection of the rigging. While he was up there, he watered the rig as well (see video below).

Everyone does this differently. On Estrellita, when one of us goes up the mast, s/he climbs up the main halyard with ascenders and the second person backup belays with a halyard tied into the harness through the two rope connection points with a double figure eight. The person then lowers with the ascenders while the belayer again backs up with a halyard. No winching.

Our kit consists primarily of climbing gear we already owned from, er, climbing. Even though climbing gear isn’t cheap, the entire kit below is a lot less than a commercial marine set up like the ATN mastclimber ($450). Although a climbing harness isn’t a chair, they are meant to be sat in for extended periods of time. Your mileage may vary. We keep our kit in double ziploc bags and after 5 years aboard everything is doing fine. Because this is safety stuff I will add the caveat: duh, this is safety stuff - don't believe everything you read on the internet ;)
  • An inexpensive climbing harness. We use one of our old Petzl harnesses. Any will do but make sure you read the instructions and tighten it above your hipbones so you don’t slide out if you flip. ($55)
  • Two ascenders ($70 each = $140) The top ascender is where we connect the runner for our foot. The bottom is connected directly to the belay loop in our harness. You stand up on the foot dragging the bottom “harness” ascender with you and then sit onto it. You raise the “foot” and repeat. Read the instructions carefully.
  • One or two plain nylon runners (4’). One if you want to use one foot in the sling, one on the mast as we usually do, or two if you want to stand up on two feet with your feet cupping the mast. You do not need presewn runners. You can easily save some money and use four feet of webbing and tie an overhand knot. If you buy presewn it might be wroth the extra few dollars to get dyneema/spectra runners – not because you need them for climbing the mast but they are so strong they can then be used to replace broken shackles, etc.
  • 3 locking biners ($8 or so each = $24). You use one locking biner on each ascender and you use one on your leash (below) if you use one. You don’t need anything fancy  but it is difficult not to buy shiny pretty biners when you are in the store!
  • One sewn loop daisy chain. You can use a normal daisy chain but you have to be very careful not to use a single biner to shorten it. Cheaper than a daisy chain, you can buy a presewn runner (see above) in the correct length. We use one of the locking biners to connect this daisy chain (which is looped to our harnesson one end) to the higher ascender as a backup. This is kind of overkill because we also set up a backup belay with a second halyard, tied in with a double figure eight to the two connection points in the harness (read the harness instructions on where to connect biners and where to connect ropes). ($30)

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