The Chinese philosopher Laozi said,”The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Recently, I took a step. Rather than a thousand miles, however, my journey was only about thirty something feet. Straight up. I made my first trip to the top of a sailboat mast.
I was offered the opportunity to get a very nice Schaefer headsail furler at a very steep discount. Only catch was…I had to remove it from the old boat myself. So with the help of a friend, we took a quick trip in my boat over to the “parts boat.” Using the parts boat’s main halyard, we ran the mast ladder up the mast. I familiarized myself with the bosun’s chair harness I used as a backup then began the slow, plodding journey up the mast. Step by step, I got higher.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I did a lot of rock climbing; I’ve skydived and bungee-jumped; I love roller coasters and other tall amusement park rides and such. As you can tell, I’m no stranger to heights.
As I began climbing up the mast ladder, I was exhilarated. At the same time, in the back of my mind was nestled the fact that the mast ladder was raised and supported by a who-knows-how-old halyard on a boat that had been abandoned and left to rot in the Texas weather for at least the last five years! Add that to the fact the wind was blowing somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 mph. The swaying of the boat at water level is greatly intensified when you consider the arc the top of the mast goes through 36 feet up.
Thankfully, it was an uneventful trip to the top. My friend tied off the jib halyard to the bow pulpit to fashion a makeshift forestay while I began the process of removing the actual forestay. A very quick few minutes later I had the wire forestay removed and lowered to the deck.
I know there’s a LOT of people who’ve done this a hundred times and up until this point, there were numerous times I’d envisioned climbing to the top of a sailboat mast myself. I have to admit it was absolutely everything I’d imagined. Next step is to install the furler on my boat. Yes! Another trip to the mast top! Maybe I see it as some sort of “rite of passage” as a sailor. I don’t know….but not I can’t wait until I can get on an even higher mast on a larger boat!
Here’s a few photos for you to enjoy!