If you are one of the many who didn't lift your mast out at the end of the 2016 season and haven't, as yet, made a trip aloft to check your rig out, now is the time to climb that spar before you set off on your summer cruise. Why? Because you never know what issues you may find up there! The other week, whilst in Corfu, a member of my local club who is living the dream and keeps his yacht out in Greece met up with Jenny & I in Mandraki for just a couple of beers and a bite to eat. Conversation, as always amongst us blokes gathered round the table, inevitably got around to boats and after what I think was a 'couple' more beers (or was it more?) I found out next morning that I had apparently volunteered to climb his mast and check his rig out. When professionally climbing a mast back in the UK I always use a Spinlock Mast Pro "bosuns chair", as I think its the most secure of all the chairs on the market (and of course that's the make we have on our Mystery) along with a Solent Top Climber. This allows me to 'stand up' in the chair and get right to the very tip of the mast head gear. When climbing a mast for an inspection I always take a mobile phone with me, Leatherman, roll of pvc tape and white self amalgamating. Should my Leatherman multitool not provide me with the correct size screwdriver or pliers one can always be hoisted up. Two days later (not that I needed a full day to sober up) as it was bright sunshine, and as I am long sighted, I climbed his mast wearing my Gill bi-focal sunglasses. Yes I know I have said it before but what a brilliant item of kit this is!
For safety reasons I always go up on two halyards and would strongly reccomend that you do also, this is after examining the halyard for strength (get your winch man to hoist you so that your toes are just touching the deck then bounce up and down as hard as you can) and any signs of chafe. Satisfied with the integrtity of the climbing halyard and the back up one, I was then winched up the mast, got to the lower set of spreaders and discovered that the casting on the starboard spreader root had a small tear and that the clevis pin was missing the stainless ring; a piece of bent wire had been substituted. Climbed further and found that the same had happened to the upper starboard spreader bracket, once again a small tear. As the owner of this boat is not happy aloft, this is where my mobile phone comes in useful, providing images that can be down loaded later onto a computer or in this case to my iPad so they can view from the comfort of the cockpit. No more issues until I got to the top of the mast and found that the inner forestay was badly stranded where the wire entered the rollswaged T-terminal! Inner forestay condemned and as for the tear in the spreader root(s) I suggested that he monitor the bracket(s) over the next few months.
Fast forward two weeks and now back in the Uk, with even the temperature on the North East coast as hot as Corfu, and this time the task was to fit a replacement TV antenna at the top of a mast. Climbed and once up there, before we fitted the Glomex antenna, noticed that his mast head tri was way past its sell by date. Upper and lower part of the light full of water and the lens badly crazed from exposure to sunlight! Not only that, the halyard diverter had seen better days. It was badly worn where it clamps on the forestay wire allowing it to tilt, making it as much use as a chocolate fire guard! My message, it's always a good idea to inspect your mast at least once a year. Click onto this link for our thoughts on mast inspection.