• close family • small boat • big world •

Higher Than Ever

September 30, 2013

by Nicole

Imagine you're on the top of a telephone pole, attached only by your feet and a single rope.  Now imagine that the telephone pole is five stories high.  Then imagine the telephone pole is swaying from side to side.  That was just what it was like when I climbed the mast.  Even though it was scary, I had an awesome time.

I was climbing up there to fix the anchor light and the navigation light.  The nav light is a bi-color light.  That means it is two different colors - red to port (left) and green to starboard (right).  The nav light shows other boats which direction you're going when sailing at night.  The anchor light, below the nav light, is white.  That's the light that shows other boats that you're at anchor.  Both the lights are working, but they take a lot of power to run, so I was going to replace them with LED bulbs.  LED lights use 6% of the power that incandescent lights use, so they're great to have on our boat, since we need to conserve power.  I made a harness out of webbing and attached it to the spinnaker halyard, which is the rope that raises the spinnaker sail.  I also wore a little pouch with the things I needed to do the work.  There was a screwdriver attached to a lanyard, which I attached to my wrist, and two LED light bulbs.

I tested the strength of the harness by pushing my feet against the mast and swinging out while my dad belayed me.  The harness held, so I started my climb. 
When I got to the spreaders, which are about 33 feet, up I stepped up on the right spreader and and then put my other foot on the left one.  This was a bit harder than the usual climbing because they're placed about half-a-foot higher than where the footholds would be.  I kept climbing up the mast until I got to the staysail, which is about three-fourths of the way up.  It was a little harder to go the next few steps because the sail was attached to the mast on the same side where I was.  I had to climb on only one side to get around it.

Finally, I got to the top.  Well, almost. The foot-holds didn't go ALL the way to the top so I was forced to stand on the last two foot-holds and hang on to basically nothing so that I could reach the lights I was changing.

At the very top of the mast, I took out the screwdriver with shaking hands and unscrewed the metal plate on the  very top of the light.  It was really a very stressful job and took a lot of concentration, trying to unscrew an inch-long screw and hang on to it 61 feet in the air.  I put it in a little pocket in the pouch and did the same with the other one.  I took off the metal disk they held down and put that in the pouch so I wouldn't drop it.  I was just about to reach in to unscrew the light bulb, but there wasn't an opening.  I figured it had been sealed so that water didn't get into it.  I shouted down what I had seen, and then quickly climbed down.  After I got back to the ground safely, I drew a picture of the light fixture to explain it to everybody else.  My dad went up after that to check it out, but we still couldn't figure it out.  This experience was really fun and really scary, and the view was amazing!

Aunt Lisa said...

Good thing you're a monkey! Your climb and your work are impressive, and it was fun reading the description of your adventure. That really must have been quite a view!

Brian Baran said...

Wow, Nicole. You're much braver than I would have been!

Grandma said...

Nicole, I have finally gotten around to beginning to read your blog. I was in Mexico from September 20 to October 1; then I had to travel for work; then I got a cold. But, I am back in business now, and I am looking forward to reading your reports regularly.
I was very impressed with your climbing up the mast and attempting to fix the lights. Thank goodness for all those gymnastics classes--you're terrific. But, I am also very impressed and pleased at your excellent writing ability. It was a pleasure to read about your adventure.