An important annual ritual is rig inspection. There are a number of good sailboat rig inspection checklists. We had two purposes this year. First, the normal "ounce of prevention", but an important second was finding the source of bits of plastic that had rained down on the deck.
Every sailor is thrown into a total panic by hardware on the deck. "Where did it come from? What's failing up there?" Luck (or Poseidon) was with us for part of the work aloft. But not all of it. We still have some stripes to earn up there.
During the search for the origin of the plastic bits, we turned up a loose rivet. The picture shows a new rivet which replaced one that had failed in the mainmast spreader tang. [I didn't take a "before" picture. Mostly because my death-like grip on the mast precluded operating the camera. Even this "after" picture was a challenge.]
CA, on the other hand, was happy to take pictures of everything she could see up there. She took pictures of the creek, the bay, the marina and me, too.
After the initial inspection of the loose rivet, I made three more trips up the mast to make the repair. It was my first repair aloft, and I didn't know what to bring. I could have loaded up on random tools, but it seemed more prudent to measure first.
The smart riggers will use a messenger line and a bucket to send tools up and down. Next time we'll need to bust out a 100' halyard for the bucket so it can be operated from the deck. Next time.
Going aloft safely is matter of assuring that you don't fall and you don't drop your tools. This is not too different from working on a pitching deck closer to sea-level. Except for the altitude.
Brion Toss's book, Knots, suggests three ways to belay tools. Small-hole tools use the Knute Hitch. Large-hole tools (or drills with bulky battery packs) benefit from the clever Buntline Hitch. Finally, tools like the Big-Daddy rivet setting tool can be held with a Double Constrictor.
Since we have steps on the mast, so we don't need a lot of help going aloft. We do, however, need a safety harness, and the Spinlock Mast-Pro mountain-climbing harness seemed like safest choice to us. It's not a proper bosun's chair, suitable for a long period aloft; but we have steps, so we don't need the support.
Spinlock advises you to tie your harness to the halyard with a proper bowline knot; the shackle on the halyard can then be clipped the harness merely to keep it out of the way.
Trip one was simply to measure the rivet. Luck (or Poseidon) was with us because the rivet was ¼" and we happened to have a box of ¼" rivets!
Trip two was to drill out the mortal remains of the old rivet. Trip three (here's where a bucket would have been smart) was to bring up the "Big Daddy" riveter and a few rivets.
And yes, the riveter is big, heavy and awkward. It was a bit dicey finding a good angle on the rivet while hanging from a harness. Did I mention awkward?
If you've never used a "blind rivet" (or "rivet compression") tool, there's a distinct "pop" when the mandrel is pulled out of the rivet. (Hence the brand name, Pop Rivet™.) When using the Marson Big Daddy on a ¼" rivet the "pop" is more of a "bang" and it resonates through the mast. [The resonance makes it a kind of "kaboom". ]
This tends to raise a bit of an alarm to those on deck.
Commodore: "Is everything okay up there?"
Boatswain: "Rivet set, ma'am."
Commodore: "Are you sure? You didn't just break something up there?"
Boatswain: "No, ma'am. The boat's fine. That's the noise they make when the mandrel breaks."
Boatswain: "I'm okay, too."
Commodore: "Whatever. Are you done? Or are you going to spend the whole weekend up there?"
A few trips to the rock gym as birthday parties and Girl Scout outings taught us a tiny bit about harnesses, being on belay and climbing. The crew working aloft asks "On Belay?" and likes to hear a positive "Belay on". The aloft crew announces "Climbing" and the crew on belay confirms it with a "Climb on".
Since we have winches, the belay job is really easy. Two turns on the winch to haul in the slack. None of that around the back business.
Coming down is fun. We learned the phrase "Slack me, mon," in the British West Indies (Tortola, specifically) and we use that as the command to lower the climber back down to the deck. With two turns on a winch, the person on belay can easily lower the climber to the deck without any straining or sweating.
Poseidon (or luck) was with us on the rivet repair. The plastic bits, however, are still unexplained.
Next calm day, we'll re-rig the harness and the Mast-Mate and make another foray up the mizzen to check for missing bits of plastic.