Up the Mast – Captain Frank the Yo-Yo

Yesterday we received some packages from some of our final purchases before departure. One of the bigger boxes included new lines (that’s what sailors call the ropes for handling the sails). We bought the lines so we would have spares on board in case some lines have problems.

The biggest line (nearly 240 feet in length), was bought to replace our main halyard (the line that lifts our main sail, but is also used for other things like lifting our dinghy). Since the main halyard is so critical, and our old line had some visible wear and tear, we decided to replace it before we leave. We bought an extra strong line, so this line cost quite a bit of money.

Late in the day, Karen and I started preparing to send me up the mast to replace the main halyard. I got the bosun’s chair (the canvas seat I sit in as the line pulls me up) ready with some tools. Attached the new line to the seat to take it up with me. And even used a different halyard for the lifting so I could send down the old halyard down.

The first problem was that the shaft for the attachment point for the top end of the main halyard was also used as the shaft for the pulley holding the halyard I used to get up there. Oops! I couldn’t remove that! So, I had to go back down. Karen was operating the electric winch to lift me, but had to manually control the line to let me down.

I then realized I could use the main halyard to go up there and disconnect the end since it wasn’t supporting me up there anyway. But, I’d have to go again to remove the old line, attach the new line to the end and pull through the new line. So, that’s what we did.

Once we had it down, I couldn’t use either of the two main halyard, so I decided to use the spinnaker halyard to take me up. But, it is on the other side of the mast. We managed to pull me up this time and I began the process of attaching the two halyards together. I used some twine and tape to connect them. Only, I forgot to take the knot out of the new line I used to carry it up! Meanwhile, I managed to drop the needle to the twine I used to sew the lines together (which, believe it or not, I actually found later in the sail cover – Karen said it was “like finding a needle in a sail sack!” 🙂 ). So, I had to go back down again…

To make a long story a little shorter, I’ll just say what should have taken not longer than 1 hour and only two trips up the mast – actually ended up taking nearly 4 hours and 8 trips up the mast! It was a comedy of errors, with some serious overtones. It’s not a good idea to be going up a mast 70 feet off the water that many times. I should have done a better job of thinking things through, analyzing with binoculars before I went up, and having every step planned. We actually ended up going up the mast the last three times after sunset. The good news is that I learned a lot of lessons that will greatly improve my planning (and safety) in future mast trips. And, although I dropped a couple of things, nothing bad happened. Karen did a great job of not making any life-threatening mistakes!

Oh, and we have the new main halyard installed!

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