Many are the weekends in the close season when I get 'writers block' faced with another blog. During the season it's not usually a problem as there are lots of ideas and subject matter to be found in marinas, boatyards or out on the water; nor the months of October and November as new products are showcased at METS, the huge Marine Trades Assoc exhibition in Amsterdam. As I blog today my thanks must go out to Doug Sharp of the RNYC, Blyth, Northumberland who, with time on his hands, (usually by now he is in his favourite cruising ground of the West Coast of Scotland) has been posting some great images on the club Facebook page over the last few days. Long may he continue doing this even though lockdown may be relaxed, who knows more subject matter? If we are allowed to access our boats in late May what will our priorities be? Slap a quick coat of antifouling on, launch, forget about the polish of topsides and enjoy the rest of the summer? Having said that a lot of the preseason work can be done when she's afloat and that includes mast inspection, assuming the mast hadn't been lowered during the close season and was checked over earlier.
Once back in the water, if you are climbing a mast never forget to go up on two halyards after inspecting them, use a strong mousing line and withdraw the halyard completely checking for sign of chafe or other weaknesses. If satisfied, replace, but don't under any circumstances go up aloft on perhaps a spinny halyard that runs through an external block! The shackle pin may be loose, cracked or the attachment point almost worn through. Always attach the halyards to the chair with a bowline, snap shackles can catch on the way up, after you have reached the dizzy heights make sure the guys on the deck tie off the halyard tail as against relying on friction from the winch drum and the self tailing stripper arm to keep you aloft. Once up there can you reach up to adjust the vanes of say the Windex or maybe change a bulb? If the mast doesn't have mast steps at the top, we always go up with a set of stirrups or Top climber already attached to our bosuns chair, it allows you to 'stand up' and gain that vital 75 odd centimetres.
When climbing I always make sure I have my mobile with me, tis handy if there is an issue up aloft and I want to discuss it with, say, the owner, so I take a few pics! For our avid readers images can be e-mailed to us for further advice, we welcome them and in the unlikely event we cannot answer them by return, with over 45 years in the marine trade I do have a fair number of expert contacts. Apart from my mobile, my multi-tool will be in my ditty bag, a can of Boeshield, scrap of fine wet and dry, a reel of monel siezing wire, some good quality electricians tape, a roll of self amalgamating tape and some split pins. Mclube dry film lubricant is also handy to keep on the boat and take aloft.
As for what kind of bosuns chair to go aloft in, both Andy and I favour the Spinlock, however the other Rob who often spends a couple of hours aloft prefers the Solent with the addition of a hard seat! Coupled, of course, with a top climber. Those nice guys at Spinlock have produced a guide to going aloft; excellent it is, but you must climb on two halyards!