Mast Mate Climbing System
Mast Mate is an alternating-step flexible ladder made of 2 inch-wide nylon webbing. The sewn tensile strength of the webbing is 3,000 pounds. The distance between the alternating steps is 17 inches. The steps are double reinforced with the same webbing. The steps are not sewn on to a main strap, but rather are formed by two continuous parallel straps of webbing, one sewn to form the step, the other straight, and visa versa, over the length of the ladder. Thus the Mast Mate is one contiguous unit.
A No. 3 spur grommet is attached between each step (25 grommets for the 35-foot and 36 grommets for the 50-foot). A stout D ring is affixed at the top for halyard connection. Nylon retainer shackles are provided for connecting the step grommets to the appropriate slides or slugs provided by the owner. There is a double step at the top, 3 feet below the halyard connection, for equal footing when working. The double step can be positioned at any point along the mast, A No. 3 grommet is provided between the halyard connection and the double step for gear attachment, bosun’s chair, tool bag, or safety harness.
Mast Mate is raised only when needed. It is hoisted just as is the mainsail. If the particular track or slot system has a gate, Mast Mate is fed in above the lowered main; otherwise, the main must be taken off the track or slot. A downhaul is recommended, but the weight of the climber will take the slack out of the system.
A common problem, main halyard retrieval, can be solved with Mast Mate by using the jib halyard (masthead rig only) or adjustable topping lift. If a spare halyard is available, Mast Mate affixed will provide a means to lessen the burden of going aloft in the bosun’s chair by taking the weight off the wincher. Mast Mate can also be used as an emergency boarding ladder by looping a step over a winch and casting the rest overboard. When not in use, Mast Mate is rolled compactly (per instructions) and stowed in the nylon bag provided. The 35ft MAST MATE weighs 8 pounds and it’s dimensions rolled are 14″ X 2″, the 50′ Mast Mate weighs 11.5 pounds and is 16″ X 2″ rolled.
Mast Mate is manufactured in the United States, It is a simple device, a combination of old and new ideas and modern materials. Used with common sense and good judgment, it is a very helpful tool. The statement most often heard when Mast Mate is seen at boat shows or in private use is: “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Tool Bag Workbelt
The design is similar to a linesman’s belt, consisting of an adjustable waist belt with a tool bag conveniently affixed at the back and a tether strap that goes around the mast and clips back onto the opposite side of the belt. This allows for a comfortable work position with both hands free. I feel the use of this workbelt greatly reduces any risk that could be incurred by on the spot solutions to securing yourself to the mast. When used to hold you to the mast, regular safety harnesses with a single front attachment point, although useful for a back up safety line, tend to make you swing side to side making working difficult at best. With the Mast Mate Workbelt you are fully supported from your backside greatly reducing swing . It is a must when working off the Mast Mate and is equally useful when using permanent mast steps.
Even I will admit that one of the difficulties in using the mast mate while standing and doing work in the top adjacent steps is foot fatigue. This is caused by the very thing that makes the mast mate so safe to climb, the flexible webbing that surrounds and grips your feet as you climb. But, when you stand in the steps for any length of time, this grip and flexing also causes foot fatigue . In the past this has been dealt with by finding ways to lessen the pressure on the feet by either leaning back in the workbelt or climbing harness or by sitting in the bosuns chair. Now there is a way to even lessen this pressure more by using a stiffener in the bottom of the top double steps. The stiffener is a strip of sturdy sail batten stock with rubber cap ends which slides securely into a pocket formed by the double webbing reinforcer. This provides a stiff bottom on the adjacent top steps which prevents them from collapsing around the foot. A pair of stiffeners is now included with every Mast Mate at no additional cost.