10 August 2014

Adventures Aloft Alone

Six years ago I replaced the incandescent bulbs in the combination tri-color/anchor light at the masthead with LED units.  The light itself is an Aqua Signal Series 40 originally supplied with a 25W sailing light and a 10W anchor light. Each replacement (Dr LED) uses only 1W so the energy savings are substantial.  However as you've guessed, the dollar "savings" were painfully negative.

When testing gear this season I discovered that the tri-color was fine but the anchor light was not.  This wouldn't normally be an issue since I prefer deck level anchor lights, but this sort of thing tends to annoy.  I decided to make the repair.

Testing indicated the problem was with the bulb and after obtaining the ($60.00) replacement, I asked the yard to go up and do the job.  Unfortunately the crane normally used wouldn't reach the masthead, and getting enough experienced bodies to put me up in the chair was unlikely.  Other factors including impatience led me to rely once again on my MastMate climbing system, pictured in the photo at right.

The MastMate is a first class piece of gear.  I'd used it 4 times in the past 6 years: twice at the dock (photo right), once offshore en route to Bermuda, and once in harbor in Bermuda.  Each instance forced me to question my own sanity.  If you disagree, please refer to the photo below. 

It happens that the system works well.  I speak from the perspective of hating anything to do with higher altitudes, but common sense and the right gear makes it possible to survive the ordeal.  "Right Gear" includes a purpose built harness system available from the manufacturer (photo right).  I modified this rig to add another tether that's used when passing the spreaders (green webbing), so one is never unsecured.  I now feel sufficiently confident working at the top, but that's not to say I want to do it again next week.
The most pleasant part of an operation like this is stowing the tools and gear afterward.  If you are in a position to be stowing the MastMate after use, it indicates you're probably still alive.