Rising above it all: aging cruiser gets creative

I doubt that there is anything more uncomfortable for a middle-aged cruising bloke than the canvas bosun's chair.

Getting into it at deck level can be a circus act. With one hand you are holding the halyard and the other you are trying to hold the lifeless, swinging bag while trying to put your foot into the leg hole.

Once in the chair up you go, pushing yourself away from the mast and rigging with one foot at a time as, all the while, the mast and rigging threatens to do you an injury. The other hand grips onto the hoisting halyard, all the while you try to protect your manhood as you gyrate around.

Being hoisted aloft in a bosun’s chair for the first time is like trying to learn to waterski with one arm tied behind your back. The sheer physical effort used to even get your eyes to where the chair hauling halyard exits the masthead is torturous enough. But that is often not as high as you need to go. At that point, on my yacht anyway, the masthead crane is still an arm’s length above me when I need to be above it.

Constantly shifting my weight from one bum cheek to the other, just to keep some sort of blood flowing down to the nether regions, is a constant aggravation. Once you are up there you have to use one hand to keep steady to work. Use another hand to hang onto the tools and, with the third hand, you try to complete the job. Of course, if you can perform like an Orang-utan all this does not matter.

Nup, I have never met a yachty who loves his limp, lifeless, canvas nappy.

So, I put my lateral thinking cap on and got the brain working. What could I do to make life easier and more comfortable both on the way up and down and while at the top of the mast? After some soul searching I concluded that what ever I came up with needs to follow this path:

  1. must keep the blood flowing through the vital organs and down to my feet. Solution: stand upright

  2. must not require my hands to hold on when ascending, at the mast head or descending. Solution: stand upright and wear a waist harness

  3. must free up both hands. Solution: stand upright wearing a waist harness

  4. must secure all tools and put them within easy reach. Solution: include a tool rack at waist height

  5. must get my head well above the mast crane. Solution: safely stand upright at top of mast

  6. must secure the halyard and be safe for anyone at base hauling me up the mast. Solution: Ah, the pleasures of an electric halyard winch

  7. must have voice communication with the halyard winch operator. Solution: mobile phone on hands-free attached via a tradesman belt clip

  8. must give the winch operator the same view as I have from the masthead. Solution: a wireless operated camera on my forehead, attached by a head strap.

In no time my masthead standing platform (MSP) was in my head, large as life. In a few hours and using computer assisted drawing, I converted the image in my head to a design drawing. I was now able to make my MSP.

During the making process I made the mistake of telling a few mates about it. Matt from Sydney said “nice knowing you mate. You silly old bugger, you will fall off and kill yourself. Too far to attend your funeral, will send flowers.”

But the big day came when my masthead stand was finished and the crew and I went to Paynesville to give it a test run. Dave was on the electric halyard winch and I took my position on the platform. With my personal safety harness halyard attached to a manual winch and the platform vertical post attached to a halyard on the electric winch, I had dual insurance.

All the while Big Al had been watching from his cockpit, “guess I will see you on the news tonight mate. You're gunna kill yourself for sure.”

I gave Al the finger and Dave the thumbs up. Dave pushed the winch button; the MSP and I headed for the stars. The tools were snug in the post rack at waist height. A waist safety strap was attached to the platform upright post. Safe and snug I was able to check everything on my casual way upward. Once up at the masthead, in pure comfort, I stopped for ten minutes to survey the masthead crane, halyards, pins etc. Then it was onto the big prize.

“Take her up a bit more, Dave.”

As easy as Dave pushing the electric winch button I had my chest at the masthead and my head well above it. Finally, steady as a rock and feeling very safe, I could work at the mast head with both hands free.

I removed the omni-direction television aerial, took some pics with the camera and called Dave, he lowered me to the deck. I had been up there for 30 minutes or more with no ill affects.

Mission accomplished.

M.O.S.S Australia
NAV at Home
West Systems
Jeanneau JY55
M.O.S.S Australia
JPK 11.80 July 2024