I needed to go up the mast last year but managed to put it off, I’m not the best with heights but if it needs to be done it needs to be done! If I’m going to do it though I would rather have my feet on something rather then hanging from a harness or bosuns chair.
I have seen various methods of mast climbing but a mast ladder appealed the most to me. I said singlehanded or with inexperienced crew mostly so having to ask someone who isn’t so sure on how to use a winch to winch you 30ft in the air isn’t my idea of a fun day out. With a ladder I am in control and another person can tail the safety line on the winch or I can use a climbing asscender myself.
Louise, my wife was unsure on what to buy me for a birthday present so I suggested a mast ladder would be good… I knew I needed to go up to refit the wind instrument. After a few measurments and emails I ordered the ladder from Hurst Marines website and paid the due amount, it was about £160 (the cheapest brand of ladder I could find). Just over a week later it turned up in in it’s own storage bag. It looks very well made, extra pieces of webbing on the steps to keep them open and good quality shackles and slides. I was heading down to the boat that weekend so fitting the wind instrument was on the to do list!
Fitting the ladder was simple, I used a climbing carabiner through the hard eye on my main halyard and through the metal ring of the ladder, fasten it off on the gooseneck, hoist and tighten. I also tied on a bosuns chair on the topping lift and asked a fellow club member to tail it. Now I wasn’t feeling great so I wasn’t looking forward to climbing up but it wasn’t so bad. The biggest difficulty was the ladder pivioting from port to starboard as I put weight on the rung stopping my feet going in far enough to be secure so to speak. I soon realised there was a bit of a knack and to make sure my foot was far enough in before putting weight on it, then my foot would stop it pivoting around the mast track. It’s a bit awkward but once you’ve got it, it’s fine.
Once you’re at the top there’s a strap which is a little tricky to get round whilst trying to hold on. I found getting letting the bosuns chair take your weight you were able to use both hands. At the top of the ladder there’s three double steps so your feet are on the same level, these seem a little low and on the top ones my head is about mast head height. I’m six foot so shorter people might struggle a bit. I think I’m going to buy a climbing asscender and attatch it to the bosuns chair to support myself as I go up. This was I can do the whole thing without help and at the top I can probably shimmy up a bit higher if needs be.
I’m happy with the ladder though, I don’t want to spend a fortune on something I will only use a couple of times a year but it’s already paid for itself in what I would have been charged by a rigger to go up!