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From Futtock to Top


mikiek
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I'm not afraid of heights but I am afraid of falling from heights.  I'm rigging Niagara and was doing the main shrouds & futtocks. It made me start wondering how they got to the mast top. I can see going up the rats on the shrouds & futtocks. But then you're right under the top and there really isn't much to grab hold of. There's no hole to go thru so you would have to climb up over the edge. At that point about the only thing to pull yourself up is the deadeye lashing.

 

How do they do it?

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Climbing in the rig is exhilarating! Its the best part about traditional sailing, in my opinion. Nearly EVERY modern ship has mandatory safety harness wearing policies and these will have a three foot long lanyard with a double locking snap hook or caribiner on its end which the climber can quickly and easily clip onto any convenient bit of standing rigging. Typically when going over the futtocks a climber pauses and clips in to a spot above their heads then climbs up with the secure knowledge that if they fall the harness will save them. The problem is that the larger the ship, the greater the distance you must cover. On a smaller ship one may stand at the highest ratline and be able to reach the top with your hand. On big ships you can't and must commit to climbing the futtocks WITHOUT being able to hold onto anything above the level of the top. This is disconcerting. And in situations like this, your safety lanyard becomes paradoxically dangerous since you want to clip into the futtocks, but as you climb up to this point you now are obliged to unclip and reposition your safety lanyard to a higher spot. This makes you more vulnerable than if you had not clipped on in the first place since now you're hanging on one-handed while you re-clip. To deal with this many modern ships have a dedicated safety line running from above the top down to the highest ratline level. Clipping into this allows you to use both hands for the climb but if you do fall, you fall the full length of the safety line + landyard length before you fetch up. I saw this happen to a guy once.

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The heck with that. I remember when I was stationed on the USS Piedmont AD-17 and I was conducting a PMS spot check. I reached in the box and pulled out Blinking Light Maintenance. The guy laughs and hands me a safety harness and says let's go. That's when I found out this blinking light was at the end of the yardarm. I got up there wrapped that safety harness line around until it was tight and watched the maintenance. Took about an hour for them to get me down as I have this great fear of heights. You wouldn't believe how much that yard moves.

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