Mailport November 1, 1998 Issue

Mailport 11/01/98

Mast Steps
I enjoyed your review of mast steps (July 1, 1998) and it confirmed my selection of components made last year. However, I bought another variation on the fixed step in the U.K. This was made by Kemp Masts, now a division of Selden of Sweden. It consists of a ridged triangular foot rest, made from anodized cast aluminum, with a solid aluminum rod above, a bit like an inverted version of the Ronstan. The rod is bent to give an initial vertical section, like the Pace-Edwards, to accommodate a wide boot, up to 4-5/8" wide. It weighs about 5-1/2 oz. There are a total of three 1/4" mounting holes, two at the corners of the foot rest and one at the top of the vertical rod. I used Duralumin pop rivets, a hard aluminum alloy from the U.K.

I installed these steps up to the lower spreaders on my Corbin 39 mast. I also have a pair of the Mast Walkers set opposite each other near the mast- head. These have proved comfortable when working up there, except that either the backstay or the forestay gets in the way! The anti-rattle feature on the folded Mast Walkers is useful. My Mast Walkers were obtained from the original designer, Peter Bucher of Montreal, Canada. I believe he designed them after experience as a telephone lineman.

David Salter
Bath, Ontario, Canada


I’ve had folding mast steps on both masts of my schooner for 18 years, and have never been sorry I installed them. One of the big advantages of the folding steps (and the Fastep), which was overlooked in your evaluation, is the inherent security when using a backup safety belt, with the belt passing around the mast. With all the other mast steps, a safety belt only gives security if it is passed through each step as you climb or descend.

With the folding mast steps, a safety belt (or nylon rope) just has to be moved up or down the mast as you ascend or descend. If the climber were to fall, the safety belt just catches on the step and holds the climber in place, something which would not happen using the other steps with their sloping support above the foot rest.

Thus, your last sentence, “…with any of these steps, we’d recommend the use of the Saf Brak,” would not apply to the folding steps, since a simple safety belt would provide better security to the climber, locking him to the mast, not a halyard.

Don Launer
Forked River, New Jersey


One comment I remember from Philip Weld’s book about his transatlantic trimaran adventures: He was told that when you go up a mast alone you should put the tail end of the halyard in a bucket attached to your seat. The reason is that the line, if dropped on deck, might catch on something and then you cannot get down.

Weld described when this actually happened to him. The line fell out of the bucket and got caught on deck. He was trapped halfway up the mast in the Bay of Biscay. He managed to escape from the chair and slide down the mast, but he expressed concern that if he had not been able to do that, it would have been the end of him.

William Saltonstall
Boston, Massachusetts


All the various means of ascending a mast were most interesting. However, you forgot two of them. One is for use with the boat at the dock, the other for when you are underway.

Method one is to fill a container (canvas bag?) with enough water to match your weight (you, the tools, the bosun’s chair, etc.) and hoist it to the top of the mast. You then hook on and use the counter balance to allow you to hoist yourself up the mast. The work involved in moving up and down is not that much and you can use either the main or jib halyard. I agree with those you consulted who said that using an internal masthead sheave is important to prevent a fall due to something breaking (like the crane or the block).

Method two is for underway. You run a jib halyard through a snatch block secured to a forward tack point. Attach a line with a large bucket (canvas bag?) to the jib halyard. With the other end tied off, drop the bucket over the side and let it fill with water. The motion of the boat going through the water (sail or power) should provide enough pull on the line to hoist a person up the mast. The amount of hoist depends on the speed of the boat and/or the size of the water container being dragged behind.

Although I have used neither, I have read accounts of both methods being used.

C. Henry Depew
Tallahassee, Florida


Is there no end to a sailor’s ingenuity?! Elevators use counterweights, so why not riggers? But hauling a 200-lb. bag to the masthead doesn’t sound like easy work either.

Unless you’re a physicist, method two seems like it would require some trial and error. Anyone who has tried to gather water by dropping a bucket (with a line attached) over the side with the boat moving, knows there is a lot of force involved. Enough that it’s easy to lose the bucket because you can’t hold the line. Also enough that we can imagine the fellow in the bosun’s chair being spun up to the masthead faster than the dong in a ring-the-bell carnival game.


When my wife and I were living aboard a few years ago, we had a system for going aloft which may be useful for other middle-aged, somewhat out-of- shape couples.

We used both the Mast Mate ladder and a bosun’s chair together. The advantages over either alone are pretty obvious, particularly if the person on deck is of limited strength, and the safety benefits are manifold.

Although we never put it to the test, this was our planned scheme if the mainsail was stuck up. It does require two additional halyards, but we had these available as our jib furler used an internal halyard, and we had one for the chute. Run the Mast Mate up the front side of the mast, and as the climber goes up, tie off the Mast Mate to the mast every 4' or so using sail ties. The use of sail ties around the mast is another way the Mast Mate can be more quickly rigged if a furled mainsail prevents the easy insertion of the sail slides into the mast track.

Richard Pell
Sarasota, Florida


Awaiting Offshore Log
I have to say that I was upset when you first proposed giving Nick Nicholson a forum for writing about his experiences while cruising. I thought you were deviating from the original purpose of your publication, i.e., reporting on the practical aspects of sailing: new products, product comparisons, boat reviews, etc. I now realize how much I look forward to his comments. I always seem to learn something from his experiences. Please keep up the good work.

Philip DiNuovo
Kingston, Washington


Island Water World
We have been a long-time subscriber to Practical Sailor and read with interest the July issue and article about Budget Marine. Just to make you aware they are not alone in St. Maarten or the Caribbean, Island Water World has been in business for more than 30 years and we operate two stores on St. Maarten and have affiliates on the surrounding islands. We also publish our own marine catalog. In addition, we have our own boatyard and marina at our main location.

Please contact us if you ever need assistance in the St. Maarten or Eastern Caribbean area.

We have a mailing address in Miami: Island Water World Offshore, Inc. NV, PO Box 521408, Miami, FL 33152-1408.

Paul Marshall
Managing Director, Island Water World
PO Box 234
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Netherland Antilles
Phone: 5995-45310


Fiberglass: How Old?
I feel a good boat with a good following is the way to go. This is why we chose a 1984 Morgan Out Island 41 (416) ketch. Out Island 41’s have almost a cult following. The old cliché, “Things correctly bought are half sold” applies. I know Out Island 41’s sell fast because I watch the local market.

If I were answering Mr. Bloom’s question (about how long fiberglass boats last, in the April 15 issue), I would advise him to carefully choose the boat he wishes to restore and go ahead with it. I’d also ask Mr. Bloom: “How many sailors can afford a Crealock 37 over a Morgan 41 OI?

Bluewater? Earl Hinz and several others sailed around the world on OI 41’s, many solo.

Speed? How is 8.5 to 9 knots in a fresh breeze off the wind?

Windward ability? The 416 will surprise you. Besides, what full keel cruising boat goes well to windward anyway? And if you’re a gentleman…

Junab Ali
Tampa, Florida


You mean it isn’t true that you have to start the engine to tack an Out Island 41? We agree about choosing a boat with a following, as a hedge against the day you sell it.


There are two additional points that merit considering. First, having lived aboard a 50-year-old boat, one may find a point in the life of a well-built boat at which the increase in cost of repairs and maintenance needed tends to level off to a plateau that remains fairly constant. And two, a point upon which I have only theoretical and secondhand knowledge, might it be (especially) for older folks that a catamaran’s essentially non-heeling platform and inherently lighter weight might reduce the wearing strain on equipment and body alike?

Your shunning of boats over 25 years old reflects the fears we all have of the rapidly increasing cost and frequency of repairs typically encountered in boats of that age. The question is, does that curve hold true for boats that were well-made to begin with and have been adequately maintained, or is it more true for the typical day cruiser/party boats so ubiquitous nowadays than for the serious, true blue-water cruisers?

For the second point, the late Tristan Jones, after sustaining the loss of a leg, found that a catamaran’s motion was much easier to live with than that of a monohull. Indeed, studies conducted by the navy concluded that the absence of rolling and heeling associated with a catamaran reduced crew fatigue and resulted in higher crew efficiency and fewer fatigue-related mistakes.

OK, there is a third point! You mentioned the rudderstock corroding inside the rudder. Tristan Jones also used to make the case for reachable and demountable stern-mounted rudders. When your rudder breaks or falls off in a storm, wouldn’t it be pleasant to be able to effect a repair at sea instead of having to wait for a calm day in port to hire a diver to go down and look for the problem? Rudderstocks that pass through the hull and mount a rudder below, out of sight and out of reach, pose an inherent and unnecessary risk.

James Wolfe
Westerly, Rhode Island


Polarized Sunglasses
Regarding your article on sunglasses in the August 15 issue, definitely check any polarized glasses with your digital watch. The polarization will cancel the LCD readout of the watch and sailing instruments on one or another axis—either 0° or 90° to the readout.

An acquaintance bought prescription, polarized sunglasses as a precaution for tropical racing, but couldn’t read the Ockam instrument displays unless he held his head sideways. My polarized lenses were fine, so there is some variability in the orientation of the film. A quick check with a digital watch will show the orientation.

Mark Weinheimer
Banks Sails
Oriental, North Carolina

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