How Much Weight Can a Sailboat Mast Hold?


Sailboat masts are an important part of sailing. For example, if one of your sails happens to not unravel when you need it to, someone has to be able to undo them. So, how much weight the masts can hold is a situation that needs to be addressed.

A sailboat mast can hold an average person’s weight at approx. 137 pounds. Now, this is not to say that if you have a bit more weight on that you cannot travel up the mast. You will, however, need the help of a bosun’s chair or a mast ladder as these items make it safe to climb the mast.

To protect yourself or others that wish to inspect the mast and climb it, we will be looking at products that can help you. We will also take a look at what you should bring with you on your climb to the top of
your mast for safety reasons.

Putting Weight on the Sailboat Mast

When you are trying to climb your mast, you may consider what type of material your mast is made out of. Some sailboats still have a wooden mast. While you are more likely to be able to climb this type of mast with slightly larger body weight, your sailboat may not reach the speeds you wish it to.

Wooden masts gained competition around the 1930s with the production of aluminum masts. Aluminum masts are lighter and can resist water retention better than wood. However, both wooden and aluminum masts are hollowed out.

This means that putting extra weight on them could cause them to cave or collapse. Steel masts have now entered the picture and are a lot sturdier than both wooden and aluminum masts. So, if you do have more weight than the average person, working on a steel mast would be the one to do it on.

Since it is recommended that you do not just fully put your entire body weight on the mast, you should opt for help. There are a couple of products below that will help you work on your mast in a much safer way.

Products That Can Help You Climb a Sailboat Mast

With the help of products that can bring you up and down the mast more easily, you will not have to worry about your weight as much. Some of these products can also help with those that prefer to work on their sailboat by themselves as well.

Bosun’s Chairs Will Allow You to Sit

You will need two people if you are to use a bosun’s chair. While one person sits in the chair, the other person will control the winch that pulls the other up. Both people should listen to one another as this is a team effort.

Inspect the bosun’s chair to make sure that everything is intact and that there are no frayed or torn parts. If you feel as though the chair in any way has some give to it or that the straps are a bit suspicious, do not use that chair.

You want the chair to hug your body and to be able to support you on all sides. For a bosun’s chair, do not put your faith in snap shackles or splices to hold you. Over time they will dwindle away and snap at
any moment. Halyards were meant for this kind of task.

Mast Ladders Are for Climbers

A mast ladder will have to be customized for the correct size of the length of your mast. You will measure from the boom to masthead and the size of the mast’s slots. These measurements ensure that the ladder stays taunt and that the ladder can be stabilized by the slots.

Because you will literally have to climb this ladder, it is a sturdy product. If you feel as though a ladder you are looking at would not hold your weight, do not purchase it. Some would suggest that you only
use a mast ladder for masts over 40ft.

Mast Steps Are a Hit with Simplicity

If you want something that is basic so that you can climb the mast yourself, mast steps are the way to go. Holes will have to be drilled into the mast and your Halyards may at one point or another become caught in the steps.

There are steps that can fold and there are steps that stick straight out at all times. The mast steps are more on the inexpensive side as they can start from $25 and work their way up.

Halyards Are a Mast Climbers Go To

These ropes are a must for anyone who owns a sailboat. Not only can they help rig your sails, but they can help you climb your mast. For those using a bosun’s chair, you may wish to connect two halyards to it.

The second halyard acts as a safety net should the other become untied somehow. When you are tying the halyards to your sailboat’s winch there are several halyard knots you could execute:

  • Shackle
  • Bowline
  • Half Hitch and then a Figure-Eight Knot

These knots will protect you should someone or something accidentally untie them. You will still be safe and secure no matter where you are on the mast.

Since masts can reach high heights, you will want to understand some basic safety precautions as you travel up. Also, there are few items you will need to ensure a successful climb.

Safety Precautions to Follow

Being so high up, you need to be safe as soon as you ascend. No matter how long anyone has been climbing masts, there is always the off chance that something could happen. So, here are a few ways in which you can help yourself at this time.

  • Ask yourself a lot of questions: Ask yourself basic safety questions to make sure everything is where it should be. Did I double-check the straps? Are the halyards as tight as they can be? Do I have on the right clothes to avoid any sharp edges?
  • Understand the responsibility: If you are sending someone up and it is their first time on the mast, be clear with them and their task. They need to have a clear understanding of what they should do and what they should look out for.
  • Keep tools on you: Have a screwdriver, pliers, and a retractable knife on you. These are the basic tools needed. You can add WD40, towels, and Duralac if you need to grease up your sails while you are up there.
  • Ask for help if needed: If possible, you should ask for help any time you travel up the mast. If a halyard starts to loosen, you can call out to that person to tighten it back up.
  • Lifejackets are a must: Anything can happen while you are up there, and you may fall into the water from such a tall height. A lifejacket with crotch straps will ensure that the lifejacket is not moving. No one wants to drown while they were simply trying to inspect their mast.

As you climb, the people below you may have a hard time hearing you. If you need to relay something to someone it is important that you keep your phone on you as well. Your phone can also help with taking pictures on your mast that you feel will need to be fixed now or at a later date.

Conclusion

A sailboat’s mast can only hold so much weight. No matter how much you weigh it is best to use a bosun’s chair or something that can easily glide you up and down the mast.

Take any or all safety precautions when you are traveling up the mast to prevent serious injuries to either yourself or your crew members.

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