View Full Version : The Mast Mate Ladder

Ian McColgin
01-07-2012, 06:52 PM
I disagree with Alex Nislick regarding the Mast Mate Ladder. Years ago I had an opportunity to use a product of this sort and did not like it. It has all the problems of mast steps - narrow footing base so you swing around while climbing - with the added disadvantages of flapping around and taking time and hard work to set up.

As a solo sailor and one who takes on rigging jobs on diverse boats I found that a proper chair/climbing harness and a couple of ascenders do the trick. Some boats have internal or wire halyards so you may want to bring your own length of dacron rope for setting up the easiest rig:

Nothing more than a loop from your harness up to the masthead pulley down to a pulley held conveniently low (mast base ring, low bale, even the gooseneck or whatever) and back to your harness. Put your ascenders on the fall - both with footloops that suit your size and one als with a short line to the harness - and start climbing.

Since you're pulling on the fall, each step takes but half the effot of climbing a fixed rope.

The slack that otherwise would be piling up on deck is something you're taking aloft with you. This also keeps some weight on the fall as it runs down past the ascenders, making it easy to push them up.

You can adjust the tension on this rig at any point so you can swing out to the spreaders or even jump back or forward to get at something fouled in a stay.

Because it's not a fixed line, you can transfer your weight from the ascenders to a descending ring and come down quickly.

Like any work aloft, it takes a bit of practice and familiarity with the gear. The advantage of this system is that you really won't go far without mastering it, so you won't put yourself at ignorent risk.

All the parts are readily available from both rigging suppliers and mountaineering shops.


01-08-2012, 08:44 AM
A good report, thanks Ian. I use a bos'ns chair and tackle.

Ted Hoppe
01-08-2012, 11:02 AM
I have found the mast mate ladde in conduction with a bos'n webbed seat easy to use. The trick is to use steady the step with fiberglass inserts. Proper narrow leather shoes help. I run the ladder up with two blocks. One for the ladder and one for the chair. I climb up with the chair on. I don't have a man below and can swing around the mast safely & freely to work where I need.

Ian McColgin
01-08-2012, 11:22 AM
Nice method Ted. I especially like the note about keeping the loop open and appropriately narrow shoes, which applies to the foot loops on ascenders as well. We all have our preferences and the wise rigger has more than one trick in the bag.

Maybe our esteemed editors will get someone like Brion Toss to do an overview of useful different methods of both assisted and solo techniques for getting and being aloft.

01-08-2012, 11:34 AM
I think Ian's got it, except that I'd middle the line, tie an Alpine Butterfly as the hoist point, and use three ascenders (I tend to be clumsy and have had one come off; it's so much more comfortable to be hanging from two points while reattaching the third!).

George Ray
01-08-2012, 03:56 PM
+1 => Climbing harness and ascenders ( I have three ascenders and the third follows along on an extra/safety line )

01-12-2012, 02:53 PM
Two halyards, a four part tackle, and a bosun's chair. Haul the four part to the mast head, secure it. Attach bosun's chair, and "belay" yourself every 5 feet or so with the second halyard in the event there is a failure on primary halyard or tackle.

Safe, traditional, cheap (if not "Free"), easy, and it all dissappears when you are done leaving no ugly hardware on the mast.

03-10-2012, 02:46 AM
Maybe our esteemed editors will get someone like Brion Toss to do an overview of useful different methods of both assisted and solo techniques for getting and being aloft.

WB Eds,

If you do take up Ian's suggestion could you also include the Masta Climba in your review?
I tried one at a boat show in January and would use it in preference to jumars. That said I'd still want some redundancy, though prussicks on a separate line would be my choice if they weren't being loaded too often.


03-11-2012, 02:07 AM
I previously used ascenders, they are simple tu use and safe.
The system described by Ian, dividing the effort by 2 is so clever.
But this came with Anthea:

It allows climbing with very low effort.
I'm using it with a "shunt" on a second hallyard.
You operate alone, but you still need somebody on deck, in case the endless line locks somewere.
Don't ask me how I know...:d