No-risk mast climbing

Most halyard winches are not powerful enough to hoist a 200-pound sailor up a mast, so you need to find a way to let your primary winches take the strain if you need to hoist someone up the rig. Here’s what we do on our boat, where the main halyard runs via a rope clutch (not seen in the photo) to a small winch on the mast. First, we loop a spare length of half-inch line a few times around the mast and secure it with an overhand knot (Photo 1). We clip a sturdy snatch block to this strop, and another to the toerail in line with the mast (Photo 2). The main halyard is led through both snatch blocks and back to the primary winch (Photo 3). The rope clutch on the mast adds security in case the halyard slips on the primary winch drum—we don’t have self-tailing winches. This system works well, but I’m looking forward to adding an anchor windlass with a capstan; I’ll lead the halyard to that instead, and say goodbye to grinder’s back.

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