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Barry's Blog # 79 - Up the mast

It's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop at the end

View from the top of our mast

Looking over the edge of a hotel room balcony on anything over the 10th floor makes me go all squishy inside. But I was the one going up to the top of A B Sea's mast to fit the new wind cups to the wind speed indicator.

In part it was a captain thing, you know, don't ask others to do what you are not prepared to do yourself. It was also a strength and reach thing. Aannsha's right shoulder has still not recovered from a partially torn rotator cuff, so sending her up the mast to do the job would be an unwise decision on many levels.

All of the winches on A B Sea are manual which meant it was going to be a long hard grind for whoever was pulling me up the mast. Again Aannsha was ruled out for the reasons mentioned above. Our friend Mike was the obvious choice. He has a million years experience in all things yachting, he has the muscle power to grind me up there and he has a bosun's chair.

I thought we had a bosun's chair. Turns out we don't because I mistakenly ordered the wrong thing from the UK. When we unpacked it and had a proper look, it's a safety harness which is very different to a bosun's chair. Luckily it's still useful because when going up a mast it is essential to have 2 lines attached to you just in case one fails and if both of those lines are attached to your bosun's chair and the chair fails, then you're going to experience a sudden drop quickly followed by a sudden stop and we know all about the terminal problem of sudden stops.

Strap in and hold on

I put on the safety harness, Mike adjusted the straps and tied the safety line to it. Then I wriggled into the bosun's chair and Mike attached the line that he was going to winch to lift me the 18.8 metres (61.7 feet) to the top of A B Sea's mast.

I was slightly anxious, but not overly concerned. I had full trust in Mike, the lines and the equipment. The grind began and all I had to do was sit there and admire the view. As it was about 9.30am when we started Mike began working the winch with a tee shirt and hoodie on, by the time I was half way up the hoodie had been discarded, at three quarters of the way up the tee shirt was off too. Even at that height I could see that Mike was sweating profusely from the hard work of lifting me up the mast.

The safety line attached to the harness was the topping lift from the end of the boom. The lifting line attached to the bosun's chair was our spinnaker halyard. If correctly fitted to the mast the spinnaker halyard is threaded through a metal loop near the top of the mast. This loop was as far as Mike could hoist me and my arms were not long enough for me to reach the wind speed indicator from there.

Learning knots under pressure

In order to reach the wind speed indicator I had to untie the bowline of the spinnaker halyard attached to the bosun's chair, pull the now very short end of it out of the metal loop and then retie it to the chair so that Mike could winch me to the very top of the mast.

If you've been following our blogs and videos then you'll know that Aannsha is CEO of the incredible knot tying skills department, but now I was 18.8 metres (61.7 feet) up the mast and I was on my own in the knot tying department.

It's not that I am totally incapable of tying knots, it's just that usually it takes me about 4 or 5 attempts before I get brain-hand coordination working and voila the knot is perfect. At the top of the mast I amazed myself and managed to get the bowline knot retied to the chair on the first go. It's amazing what you can achieve under pressure.

Listen for the click

Prior to going up the mast I'd done a lot of reading and watching YouTube videos about other people fitting new wind cups, whatever did we do before YouTube? The main thing I'd learned was that you have to apply very firm pressure and listen for the definite click sound as the wind cups snap into place.

I heard the click and gingerly removed my hand from the cups, they stayed in place. Tentatively I gave the cups a little flick with my finger, they spun around and didn't fall off. Mission successfully accomplished.

Okay Mike, lower me down. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog I do feel squishy inside at certain heights but being at the top of our mast didn't bother me at all. Coming down was the scary bit.

Mike and I decided that as we don't have a spinnaker sail on board A B Sea we should leave the spinnaker halyard outside the metal loop so that if we need to go to the top of the mast again there's no messing around to do. Great idea Mike.

Mike stood in the centre of the cockpit with a spinnaker halyard in his right hand and the topping lift in his left and began easing me down. Coming down is, in my opinion, more scary than going up. You have to make sure you're on the correct side of the stays, don't get tangled around the spreaders and negotiate around the radar dome. To add to that, on the way down all of my weight had been moved from the bosun's chair to the safety harness and that harness cinches quite tightly around the lower ribs, it is painful.

It works!

I was very glad to place both feet on the deck and get the equipment off. The wind gods, being humorous as always, decided that we'd have to wait to see if the wind speed indicator actually worked as there was not a breath of air. Sometime around midday a light breeze picked up and I switched on the instruments to happily see that the wind was indeed blowing at a gentle 4.2 knots. I was a very happy camper.

Home comforts

We live full time on A B Sea, this is our home and during our time in Kaş harbour Aannsha had been slowly gathering bits and pieces here and there to make things more homely.

She bought four vintage carpets ranging in age from 60 to 80 years old. Three of Turkish origin and one from Persia. They look great and feel very nice under bare feet, especially in the cold winter months.

She also bought three pieces of hand woven indigo shibori dyed cotton and using a needle and thread, some pre-loved cushion stuffing and a lot of patience, created three very beautiful cockpit cushions.

Goodbye Kaş

You can't stay in a place as charming and attractive as Kaş town for 5 months and not fall in love with it a little bit. So it was with sadness that we pulled up the anchor for the last time in Kaş at 11.00am on Friday 26th April 2019.

In our YouTube video (Ep.069) Aannsha and I run through some of the highlights of our time spent overwintering in Kaş harbour and offer up some insights to fellow travellers who may be looking for a perfect spot to spend winter in Turkey. We hope that you enjoy watching that.

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