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In gear/ the journal

Hauling Your Woman Up the Mast

by Jeff Delaney

Going up the mast is not the the most enjoyable activity in the world. If you’re smart, you may be able to convince your wife to agree to this extremely terrifying and utterly unsafe activity. In just her second trip up the mast, Breezy managed to install a new VHF antenna, fix part of the roller furling, install new spreader boots, and fully clean the standing rigging.  Following these few simple tips should get your woman up the mast and back down safely, and she might even enjoy herself.

My wife at the top of the mastTips for Convincing your Wife to go Aloft

Simply saying “Honey, I’m cranking you up the mast today to replace the VHF antenna”, is unlikely to get positive results. If you add a little encouragement and pizazz, you may get a better reaction.

  • Tell her how AMAZING the view of the harbor is at 40 plus feet.
  • Compliment her weight. It’s a rule that the lightest crew member has to climb the mast.
  • Assure her that you’re a disciplined yachtsman and will take all safety precautions.
  • Give her a safety word when she’s ready to come down.
  • Say something like “We need pictures for the blog and it should be you’re beautiful face up there”.
  • Remind her that the halyards have a breaking strength of 7,000+ pounds.
  • Start with an easy project, like cleaning the shrouds.
  • Offer to to take her shopping with the $100/hour you saved on rigging labor.

If none of these worked, I’m sorry. You can stop reading now and hop in the chair yourself.

She Said YES!

Now that you got her to say yes, you’ll need to properly rig the bosun’s chair for a safe and pleasant trip up. Here are a few safety and comfort tips that we have learned from our mast climbing experiences.

1. Tie a Proper Knot. Hint: NOT a Bowline

Figure 8 Knot for Bosun's Chair

Always use a figure-eight knot. The most common mistakes I’ve seen with bosun’s chair rigging its (1) tying a bowline knot and (2) using a the halyard shackle itself. Many people seem to default to a bowline knot, however, you will get considerably more strength and security from a figure eight knot. In order to get the knot around the bosun chair d-rings, you will need to use the figure-eight follow-through method. Rock climbers use the same method for securing the harness to their main support line.

2. Create Safety Redundancy

Breezy Mast Climbing in Harken Bosuns ChairThere should be no single piece of equipment that can fail and result in a fall, except for maybe the mast itself. Tumbling 40 feet is going to mess up your better half’s good looks at the very least, if you’re lucky. I’m sure you’ve heard stories around the marina of riggers who have died from this potentially dangerous chore.

The first obvious safety measure is a backup harness. It’s best if this can be rigged to a spare halyard in the same way you rig the bosun’s chair. If a halyard is not available, it may be necessary to create safety line that can be wrapped around the mast and adjusted by your wife on the way up. Either way, having a backup harness is essential.

When trying off lines, it’s best to have two secure points holding the line. In our case, the line runs through a clutch and is then secured around a self tailing winch with plenty of wraps. If the clutch fails, the winch will provide backup support.

3. Get the best Bosun’s Chair Money Can Buy

Do you really want to put your life in the hands of a muffy 20-year old canvas chair you bought at a swap meet? If you have multiple projects that requiring mast climbing, a new bosun’s chair is a worthy investment. We went with the Harken Deluxe Chair, which will set you back about $200. It’s comfortable, has plenty of tool storage space, and appears to be very strong.

4. Bring a Cell Phone Camera

When she installed the new VHF antenna, Breezy texted several pictures throughout the process. She had never spliced a coaxial cable before, so she was able to send me pictures with questions. If you both have iPhones, you can actually face time to see exactly what’s going on in real time. Here’s a few of the sweet pics she was able to snap on her phone.

Spliced coax cable at top of sailboat mast. VHF Antenna at Top of Mast Sailboat

Final Thoughts

Putting off projects up the mast can result in catastrophic failures down the road. Our VHF antenna was still working, but as you can see, it was due for a replacement with the coax fitting almost completely corroded away.

Corroded coax fitting from VHF on mast

Being self sufficient on a sailboat means you and your first mate should be prepared to go aloft. We’ve both found that the most rewarding projects are those done from the seat of a bosun’s chair. It’s a great feeling to overcome fear-invoking challenge and mark a boat project off the list at the same time.

0 In gear/ the journal/ the yacht

5 Secrets to Super Cheap Sailing Gear

Sailing is often called a rich man’s sport. Thankfully, a little creativity can go a long way in stretching your sailing dollar. One of the most expensive parts of boat ownership is acquiring the necessary gear for your cruising dreams.

Finding the best deals on sailing gear is an art form – it takes patience, curiosity, and dedication. When pricing sailing gear, we always use West Marine as the benchmark for the absolute highest price. Defender  is a great, moderately priced alternative to West Marine, but you’re sure to find even better discounts with the ideas below. Whether you’re upgrading, outfitting, or just in the market for spares here are 5 ways to find gear for your cruising inventory while saving money for the actual cruising.

Amazon Warehouse Deals

Amazon warehouse deals are opened box returned items that are expected to work perfectly, but can’t be sold as brand new products. There isn’t a huge selection of sailing specific items, but there are plenty of items that will be useful to the cruiser.

Here is a list of items we have found through Amazon Warehouse Deals at 10-40% off:

  • Handheld VHF Radio

  • Camera parts and equipment

  • Galley untensils and gadgets

  • Hand tools (pliers, wrenches, etc)

Ebay Sailboat Hardware Lots

Many sellers will strip an old boat of all of its hardware and equipment. Instead of selling it piece by piece they will group things together in a bulk sale. With this, we have been able to find hardware for as much as 75% off the retail price.

Minney’s Yacht Surplus

This is not your average yacht surplus store. Minney’s is the mecca. With aisle after aisle of stainless steel hardware available for purchase by the pound and an overwhelming used sail inventory that they ship worldwide, we feel downright spoiled to be able to make regular visits to the Newport Beach store whenever we’re in town. We purchased a like new asymmetrical spinnaker for less than half of what we would pay a sail maker, and the dimensions were perfect for our boat. We could not be happier with our purchase. Minney’s encourages cash purchases and will offer 5% discount if you pay with cash.

During one visit, we picked up the Charlies Charts for Cruising Mexico and ironically ended up standing in line behind Captain Holly, the author!

If you happen to sail into Newport Beach Harbor, Minney’s is a must-see whether you’re in the market for gear or not.

Swap Meets

If you love a good opportunity to haggle with salty sailors for their old gear, head to your nearest swap meet. You can find their dates and times posted at marinas.

Here are some of the deals we’ve found at our local swap meets:

  • 4 AGM 8D 240 amp battery (which we first load tested) $200 – lists for $800 at West Marine

  • Origo Oven – $150 – lists for $1100

  • Shackles and Blocks

  • Various Cruising and Boat Maintenance Books

  • All-Clad Stainless Steel Cookware $5 – 3 pieces with a total value of $250 new

Not only are swap meets an awesome opportunity to find great deals, it’s a also the perfect way to get rid of things you no longer use. In the process of updating and outfitting our boat, we accumulated plenty of things we no longer needed and were able to sell at swap meets.


Within boating communities, Craigslist is a great way to purchase used gear on the cheap. Advertisements for upcoming swap meets are often posted here as well.

While we have yet to score an awesome Craigslist deal, our buddy boating friends have a serious knack for finding the BEST deals on Craigslist. They say the secret is to be patient and look over the course of a few weeks. They also check the boating gear section regularly even if they’re not in the market for anything specific. Another hint, spell things wrong when you’re searching. If you’re looking for an inflatable kayak, search “kyak”, “kyack”, you get my drift. Sometimes the listings are spelled incorrectly. You might miss out on that awesome deal if you’re too busy with the correct spelling!

 *We have no affiliation with the products/companies mentioned.