Kinleven mast ladder [and mast climbing issues]

Sailingfun

Member III
Today arrive my kinleven mast ladder.
The first impression, the quality is superb!!
I attached few pictures, will add more over the weekend when having time to use it.
The whole ladder comes with a very sturdy bag and another net plastic bag inside. A little strap is included to storage the whole thing inside the bags.
www.kinlevenmarine.com
 

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nquigley

Member III
Looks interesting but I think I'll keep my New Tribe Onyx and 2:1 purchase system.
www.newtribe.com
I have exactly the same harness - so comfortable. I use a Petzl ascender with foot straps to go up, and a GriGri to come down. I use my halyard to haul up a sacrificial 10mm line so the ascender's teeth can chew that instead of my halyard. I use an etrier to help me get my waist up to the level of the masthead to make working on stuff on top of the mast easier to see and reach.
 

Butch Bogan

Member I
I was just discussing this with another member here. Not to speak ill of anyone's products, but I am a rigger by profession, I will not go aloft in a Bosun's chair or any kind of "mast ladder", and I know of no other professional rigger who does. I know of too many people who have fallen, or almost fallen out of chairs, and I don't see how you get to the front of the mast or spreader tips when on the ladders. A good arborists harness, properly set up is extremely comfortable and virtually impossible to fall out of.

This is a topic that can start bar fights at the yacht club, but, I'm 60 years old, about 200 lbs (without harness and tools) and can still get to a masthead with a 2:1 purchase system. The ability to be completely self-reliant while aloft is, IMO, safer than relying on help from the deck. There are multiple ways to get up a mast by yourself, ascenders, tackle, steps, whatever; working while up there and coming down however is a different story. Don't forget about the motion while up there working. Several times I've been almost thrown off a mast by passing wakes or leaned over to 30 degrees by someone stepping on to the boat from the dock. Not to mention being 1000 miles offshore and needing to go up to retrieve a skied halyard. In a good harness, and safety tethered to the mast, it's very annoying, but not life threatening. You can argue that if you're using a ladder you should also have a harness and safety line on so you can't fall, but then what is the ladder doing?

Please don't get me started on having someone else haul me up a stick, not going to happen. I've seen people use the anchor windlass to haul their partner up to the top of 70 foot masts; I can only guess they had really good life insurance.

Bottom line, whatever system you use to climb a mast, do it safely, make certain you have the skills and tools needed to get the job done properly, and always let someone know you're up there. If you can't do any of those things, call a professional, even if it's just to change a bulb.

Cheers
 

Double Tap

Member II
I was just discussing this with another member here. Not to speak ill of anyone's products, but I am a rigger by profession, I will not go aloft in a Bosun's chair or any kind of "mast ladder", and I know of no other professional rigger who does. I know of too many people who have fallen, or almost fallen out of chairs, and I don't see how you get to the front of the mast or spreader tips when on the ladders. A good arborists harness, properly set up is extremely comfortable and virtually impossible to fall out of.

This is a topic that can start bar fights at the yacht club, but, I'm 60 years old, about 200 lbs (without harness and tools) and can still get to a masthead with a 2:1 purchase system. The ability to be completely self-reliant while aloft is, IMO, safer than relying on help from the deck. There are multiple ways to get up a mast by yourself, ascenders, tackle, steps, whatever; working while up there and coming down however is a different story. Don't forget about the motion while up there working. Several times I've been almost thrown off a mast by passing wakes or leaned over to 30 degrees by someone stepping on to the boat from the dock. Not to mention being 1000 miles offshore and needing to go up to retrieve a skied halyard. In a good harness, and safety tethered to the mast, it's very annoying, but not life threatening. You can argue that if you're using a ladder you should also have a harness and safety line on so you can't fall, but then what is the ladder doing?

Please don't get me started on having someone else haul me up a stick, not going to happen. I've seen people use the anchor windlass to haul their partner up to the top of 70 foot masts; I can only guess they had really good life insurance.

Bottom line, whatever system you use to climb a mast, do it safely, make certain you have the skills and tools needed to get the job done properly, and always let someone know you're up there. If you can't do any of those things, call a professional, even if it's just to change a bulb.

Cheers
Thanks for the excellent and experienced advice Butch. Coincidentally, just a few hours ago I was researching different products for the very reason of safely climbing the mast solo. Would you mind recommending a good harness & complete set up? Thanks again.
 

goldenstate

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Do you have a safety redundancy line with your 2:1 purchase + arborist harness system? (Another rope?)
 

Butch Bogan

Member I
Good Morning Mr. Tap,

I don't want to sound evasive, but it kind of depends on how you're approaching the issue. If it's just going up for the occasional inspection then a good bosun's chair is fine and a bit less expensive than a good harness. However, if you're looking for a bullet proof system that will allow you to work for any period of time, at any location on the mast or spreaders, you can't beat a harness system.

To stay with the harness, the most important thing is fit and comfort. It's not fun coming down from a relatively short time aloft and your legs are totally numb from a too tight or poorly supporting harness. When it fits properly, you should be able to hang upside down and have no fear of falling out. I've found the best resource for a good selection of harnesses , and other associated climbing gear is www.wesspur.com If you know any professional riggers or tree care people in your area it doesn't hurt to see what they're using and maybe they'll let you try one on. Key features you should be looking for are wide, padded thigh loops, secondary tie in points and accessory loops to secure tools or gear bags. Wes Spur has a good video on selecting a harness and a ton of other great videos on techniques and equipment. Make certain you have some spare time when you go to their site, it's full of rabbit holes.

Once we start talking about methods to go aloft, how to stay up there, work safely and efficiently and come back down, the options are much more numerous. Again, it kind of depends on your reality. Are you looking for a system specific to your own boat? Are you looking for something that you can use for the yacht club friends to help them with projects? Since I do this for a living my setup, and accessories, allow me to work on anything from a Santana 22 to a 70ft Maxi.

The basic allowances are, IMO, that you can get to the masthead under your own power, get out to the ends of the spreaders, be able to ascend from either side of the mast, face or back, be able to secure yourself to the spar in case of a halyard failure and the ability to descend by yourself. There are other things that need to be addressed, like how to manage tools and equipment while you're up there, but that's another topic for discussion.

As I was discussing with Neil, I mostly use a 2:1 purchase system that I hoist aloft on a halyard. Obviously I inspect and load test the halyard before I go up on it. If it's unsafe, I carry a 200ft. length of 11mm Warpspeed 2, with reeving eyes spliced in each end, that I will replace the existing halyard with. The top block is a Harken single, ratcheting, with a becket; through which is reeved 300ft. of 7/16" Regatta Braid to the lower Harken single block. Note that Harken does not recommend using rigging blocks for life support, they have a specific product line for items that are fall rated. Also, when you look at arborist's equipment, their blocks meet specific requirements for load rating. I use the gear I do understanding the inherent risks, and I inspect everything thoroughly before each use. I also have a "rope walking" system that I've been playing with for a while and may transition to shortly. If you Google rope walking you'll find some pretty cool videos out there.

There are many ways to secure yourself once you get up there, again, peruse the Wes Spur site for equipment and videos. The main thing is that you are comfortable with, and fully know how to use whatever technique/equipment you choose. A tether from your harness, around the spar, and back to your harness is a minimum, and it must be able to support a fall. One short coming of using a spare halyard, secured by someone on deck, as a secondary safety, can be how it's tended during descent. Too many people overthink how to get up a mast, and put too little thought about how to get down. Coming down is usually more dangerous than going up, especially if you're not in control. I like the ratchet block aloft, with the friction of the Regatta line and the ratchet engaged, I can completely control my rate of descent. If I let go of the line completely I will come down fast, but probably not at a lethal rate. Some riggers I know use a ratchet block at both ends of the tackle (remember the advise from Harken here).

Anyway, this reply is getting pretty long. If someone with more knowledge of the system wants to make this a separate thread, that might be a good idea to allow it to carry on. I'm happy to keep the discussion going, as it can become rather lengthy and detailed. I hope something above helps.

Cheers
 

Butch Bogan

Member I
Do you have a safety redundancy line with your 2:1 purchase + arborist harness system? (Another rope?)
Hi Tom,

That's a good question. I touch on it a little bit in the long reply to double tap above.

I don't alway have the luxury of working on boats with multiple masthead halyards, so sometimes my safety line is only the tether that I place around the mast once I'm above the spreaders. If there is another good halyard available I will secure the working end to the deck, at the mast base, make it taught on a winch, and use a running prussik secured to my harness. I never have a safety line that is tended by someone on deck, too many issues can arise. I also will not go up on an external block, such as a spinnaker that is completely outside the mast, I've seen too many shackle failures.

I hope that helps.
 

nquigley

Member III
Hi Tom,

That's a good question. I touch on it a little bit in the long reply to double tap above.

I don't alway have the luxury of working on boats with multiple masthead halyards, so sometimes my safety line is only the tether that I place around the mast once I'm above the spreaders. If there is another good halyard available I will secure the working end to the deck, at the mast base, make it taught on a winch, and use a running prussik secured to my harness. I never have a safety line that is tended by someone on deck, too many issues can arise. I also will not go up on an external block, such as a spinnaker that is completely outside the mast, I've seen too many shackle failures.

I hope that helps.
That's really good advice - I bet as lot of us might not have thought about that.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
Please don't get me started on having someone else haul me up a stick, not going to happen.

That's the way it always was--fathers hauling up sons, wives cranking while the hero pulled him self up to relieve the strain on the lifting line. I did it many times over the years.

It's a really, really bad idea. I learned that seven years ago, at age 70, when I had a nonsailing friend crank the winch to send me up. Naturally I did the best I could to relieve the weight on the winch, and naturally he got the worst series of riding turns I'd ever heard of. I learned that at the top of the mast.

Consider trying to explain to a guy 50 feet below how to make rolling hitch to relieve the pressure and unfoul the winch. Yeah. I had rigged a spinnaker halyard as a safety line, and that eventually was the solution to the riding turns. He felt awful about it all, but it was my fault.

The person selected to winch you up bears much more responsibility that I ever took into account., and if they make an innocent mistake, well. I recount this as an example of slow realization and mature self-correction.

I have a 4x1 purchase now for self hoisting. It's for emergencies only.
 

nquigley

Member III
This is my system - the picture on the right shows the full kit.

Here's a good video (the second one down on this page) - it gets a bit tree-focussed at times:
I use the prussic cord option he mentioned to adjust my lanyard.

This shows the action used (it's not without effort, but you're using your leg muscles so it's not too bad) -
scroll down to the last video on the page of the guy coming up a wall:
- I usually use two foot loops so that both legs can share the 'stand-up' effort.

A good thing about this system is that the GriGri is an auto-locking belay device - you can come down at whatever speed you like, but if you (accidentally) let go of the GriGri's friction control lever, it locks and stops the rope going through the device.
 

Kenneth K

Contributing Partner
Blogs Author
If the specialist equipment for arborists is too pricey, go to REI or you local sports outlet and check out their climbing harnesses.

The climber's stuff is light and strong, but not likely as comfortable--it's made to withstand loaded falls, but not designed to be "sat in" for long periods.

I climbed my mast with one, using the two-legged prussik method. I like prussiks because they are cheap and pretty fail safe. I put two prussiks (harness and feet) on the halyard, one on a backup halyard, and one on the safety line draped over the spreaders. Unlike ascender devices, prussiks don't abrade the halyards.
 
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Bolo

Member III
Please don't get me started on having someone else haul me up a stick, not going to happen.

That's the way it always was--fathers hauling up sons, wives cranking while the hero pulled him self up to relieve the strain on the lifting line. I did it many times over the years.

It's a really, really bad idea. I learned that seven years ago, at age 70, when I had a nonsailing friend crank the winch to send me up. Naturally I did the best I could to relieve the weight on the winch, and naturally he got the worst series of riding turns I'd ever heard of. I learned that at the top of the mast.

Consider trying to explain to a guy 50 feet below how to make rolling hitch to relieve the pressure and unfoul the winch. Yeah. I had rigged a spinnaker halyard as a safety line, and that eventually was the solution to the riding turns. He felt awful about it all, but it was my fault.

The person selected to winch you up bears much more responsibility that I ever took into account., and if they make an innocent mistake, well. I recount this as an example of slow realization and mature self-correction.

I have a 4x1 purchase now for self hoisting. It's for emergencies only.
Christian, The last time I went up the stick (which was about five years ago) I had my wife crank me up but at 200 lbs (me not my wife) I basically partially shimmied up the mast to make things easier for her. She knew enough not to cause any riding turns on the winch and I used the spinnaker halyard as a safety line but still...I WAS SCARED!! I got the job done but when there is anything that needs attending to up on the stick now I call the yard rigger. It's expensive but beats bouncing off the deck which at my age of almost 70 is not a great idea. But still I imaging that there might be times when I'm out anchored someplace or in a situation at the dock when something needs to be done up on the mast right away I might want a way of getting up there. So, I'm interested on the details of how you rigged a 4 x 1 purchase for self hoisting. Can you share that info, please.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
I bought my rig for peanuts from a Tartan 39 dockmate who was retiring from cruising, and I had seen him work his spreaders from it. It has a very long half-inch line, huge ball-bearing blocks with cam cleats, and came with what looks like a WM bosun's chair. I think the blocks are $300+retail, so this is not the way to do it. :)

It does work, but is large and hard to store. Sorry my file pictures aren't better.

(Also, those ain't my paws in the photos. The former owner was a professor of dentistry. Hmmmm.)

IMG_2251.JPG...IMG_2244.JPG...IMG_2254.JPG
 
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goldenstate

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Like each solution presented here (I think), my Mastclimber utilizes a main halyard to haul my climbing rope aloft.

Of all the links in the system, I think the small shackles on the turning blocks on the mast collar at the deck represent a substantial source of risk. I sometimes think of these little pieces of metal as I am hauling on a reef or halyard.

(Pre cleaning picture)

Small Shackles.jpg

Of course, if one of the shackles failed and the block popped off the mast, it would likely add a lot of slack all at once to a system, but not completely fail. The deck organizer would become the new corner point between the winch and the turn of the line up the mast.

But the (shortish) fall would be pretty scary.

Or perhaps some of you are using a different solution at the mast base.
One could tie off to cleats amidships if available and skip the turning blocks, I suppose.

Otherwise, with tying ropes off end to end, the mastclimber does not rely on shackles.
 

Gaviate

Member II
Wonderful topic....having not been up a mast on any climbing gear as of yet I am thrilled to get the perspective of those who have!!
Prior to any of this, I have considered that I will be going up the mast and studied how I might achieve this.
!st, as Mr. Bogan correctly states, I will not consider the spinnaker halyard as being of any use whatsoever, with the sheave suspended outside of the mast, Not where I am willing to let my life hang in the balance.
2nd, the line that I do climb, routed over the top of the mast, will be TIED off at both ends, not cleated, not wrapped, TIED and will not be routed through any turning blocks or deck organizers thereby reducing potential failure points.
3rd, unless involved in a rescue situation (or being rescued), a climb is a solo activity and I will make my own knots and set the gear to suit me.
I can already feel the adrenaline!!
When I replaced the standing rigging on Emgee last spring before launch, I used a telescoping lift and at the same time, inspected the mast head and halyards sheaves so I'm fairly comfortable with hanging my life on them.
Riggers who routinely hoist themselves up onto unknown conditions garner a good deal of respect from me.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
There are many solid and helpful articles in print and on the web about this subject.
But the information and the knowledge, while intuitively real, is kind of emotionless and a bit distant, even when logical and something I really should retain "front and center" in my thinking.
(I have been up the mast every 3 or 4 seasons, at least to the upper spreaders, and always have a sailing friend do the hoisting with another friend to tend the extra halyard safety line. Inspected the top in 2018 -- it's lonely up there.)

Reading these narratives from real sailors that I trust really puts the "E" in Education. This little site often pleases me with its wisdom and helpfulness, and never more than while reading a thread like this.

A huge Thank You to you all!:egrin:

...Carry on, as you were.... !
 

Butch Bogan

Member I
This has become quite the thread. It's great to see so much input from the group.

Just for fun I thought I'd share one of the things we riggers occasionally find once we safely get to the top of the mast. Look closely, this might just put the fear of gravity in you.
Furler Wrap1.jpg
 
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