Up the mast

Sunday January 22nd, 2017

We thought that the wind instrument up on the top of the mast simply failed.  If you get in a sudden squall with heavy rain you need to know where to point the boat. A couple of weeks ago we ordered the new gwind Garmin wind instrument. Garmin bought Nexus and this instrument is theirs. It comes with a interface box to connect with the Garmin network onboard.

This change over requires that someone (me) goes up the mast. The main mast on Fracas is 60 feet long with about 2.5 feet below the water. This translates to about 52 feet plus or minus to fall from the top to the deck. The job had to be done. John from Mango volunteered to be my ground crew. The admirals… well they went shopping. ML suggested I be careful and not fall, another item for my check list.

I’m 63 3/4 +/- old and as you age there is a rule in the Sailors and Mariners combine regulation:

  • Section 4, sub section 3, clause 9 sub a “the older you get the closer to the ground you stay”.
  • Section 2, sub section 1 clause a “you shouldn’t have a boat you can’t go to the top of the mast of…”

It was time to prepare. What tools will I need? What other stuff? What will drop accidently and I will need two of? What will I forget? Now prepare to go up the mast. The first thing to do is add a tag line to the two halyards and pull them up to the top and check for chafe or wear. Then pull them back through to the knots and be sure they are in good shape. I don’t use the snap shackles or shackles on the halyards, I tie knots a few feet into the line.

I teach health and safety so I need to practice what I teach/preach. I wear a North harness with a fall arrest system. That is attached to one of the halyards. The boson’s chair is attached to the other halyard. The drill; John will pull me up 10 feet and then snug up the second halyard…repeat as necessary. It didn’t take too long to get as far up as I can go. The knot I tied in my main line was too long and I was about 6″ lower than would have been perfect. I was also on the wrong side of the backstay. Fixing that would have meant going down 10 feet and coming back up, not doing that.

I did see dolphins from up there. John and the deck did look very small down there. “Don’t look down”! I forgot to tie on a tag line to haul stuff up…jeeeezuz. We had one halyard left so we ran the tag line up the halyard and worked from that. I had fabricated a mounting plate from starboard and I needed to drill and tap two 1/4 x 20 holes in the top of the mast. I had to reach over and blindly mark and drill these holes. This procedure went very well. The bracket was bolted on, CHECK.

You can see where the cable was hot, melted and failed. This is on the wind transducer side of the joint.
The old cable had to be replaced. It was obvious that there had been a short just behind the coupling in the cable, hot and melted.  Garmin knows this transducer was junk, that’s why they replaced it with the nexus unit… The plan is to pull the new cable down with the old cable on the way out. This also went very well, CHECK.

The last step is to lift the transducer up to the top of the mast without bashing the thing to pieces. Did I mention that the wind had picked up to 15 to 20 and that the no wake zone seemed to have been cancelled for the time I was up the mast. The new transducer easily snapped in and locked in, now tidy up the cable and I can go down.

I think I was up there for about 45 to 60 minutes. Lots of fishermen and dinghies going by with comments like; “crazy bastard up there in this wind”, ” crazy bastard, why didn’t he do this earlier when it was calm”, and “Isn’t that one of Mangos parents, John made his new Dad go up the mast”.

Back down on the deck out of the bosons chair and harness my hands started to shake almost to the point that I couldn’t hold a beer… almost.

Buried all the cables in the bilge, connected things up and it all works and works well.

Later that same day… Mangos had us over for dinner. She made quesadillas and they were very good. We made it home by 7:30 and sleep followed soon after. Today, Sunday the weather is to worsen and blow and storm for the next couple of days. I can tell how windy it is now. Prior I could only tell wind speed by amps from the wind generator.

more later

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