If you are thinking of going up the mast to replace the masthead light and have not been aloft for a while or if it’s your first time, then like me you may be feeling a little apprehensive.
Most of us do not enjoy heights so sitting at the top of the mast in a small bosuns chair, also known as boatswain chair, connected to a halyard that now looks rather flimsy while dangling 50 foot plus above the deck, is just not funny. It’s OK on a really quiet windless day but when the wind is blowing masterracksbd and the boat’s rocking in a small swell, it can get a little crazy up there.
Whenever I need to do a job near at the top of the mast I become the world’s biggest procrastinator even though I have been through this procedure so many times before. Only when I have finally run out of time and excuses do I get on with it.
Your First Time
If this is your first time, find someone who has a lot of experience to help control the hoisting halyard and safety line. You will need somebody with a cool head so that if things do get a little tense up there you know you can have absolute faith in that person’s ability to help you get back down to the deck. On my boat only my wife gets this job and when chartering I only trust other skippers or riggers who work at the marines and whom I feel are competent.
Your Bosuns Chair
That brings me to the type of bosuns chair to use. If like me you tend to get a little nervous when mast climbing or maybe you are a little out of shape, get a chair that feels snug and is padded for comfort. From experience I know these jobs always take a lot longer than I anticipate so I want a chair in which I will feel secure and comfortable. While aloft the last thing I need is to feel squeezed by the webbing supporting me and making it difficult to move about.
A premium bosuns chair should have a detachable tool pocket you can access with ease. With some of the brands I have used I find that the pockets get squeezed so tight that I cannot get my hand in them to reach the smaller small tool or bolt. I then have to do all kinds of maneuvers to get at them when all I want to do is stay relaxed and complete the job.
A Poor Bosun Chair
For many years I used a plank connected with two lines that were joined to make an eye to which I would hook the main sail halyard shackle, but this never felt great. Tools were kept in my pockets and as the chair was hoisted the ropes started pressing into my sides as they took strain, and it became very difficult to access to them. With this open type bosuns chair I always had this uncomfortable feeling that I could fall out. A few years ago while helping a fellow sailor work on his mast; he introduced me to his new wrap around very snug looking chair. Needless to say my plank chair is now a shelf in an aft locker.
This up the mast business is dangerous work and having a properly designed chair with strong, rot resistant stitching and material is of paramount importance. Bosun chairs are usually stored in damp salty lockers and in these conditions poor quality chairs quickly self destruct. Next time you are on your boat take some time to carefully inspect your bosuns chair, making sure that you are happy with its condition. I know of two friends who almost lost their lives due to bosuns chair failure but because the line controller kept a cool head these guys survived.
If you can afford the yacht then please do not skimp on a cheap inferior bosuns chair because if you don’t it may cost you or your crew’s life.
Frank Rijkers has spent many years living the “Dream” by building his own sailing yacht (footloose) and cruising the oceans of the world. Hoping to encourage all boaters to live their dream, he reviews products that will enhance their boating experience. Go to [http://coolboatingsupplies.com] and see reviews and blogs about safety gear you may be considering to buy for your boat.