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Working aloft with a bosons' chair and safety line



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What is the issue?
It is only a matter of time before a sailor has to go aloft to inspect the rig or attend to some repairs.

Why address this?
This task can be nerve-wracking for some, or at the least physically demanding and uncomfortable and certainly dangerous. Anything that reduces any of these is welcome.

How to address this?
Boson's chair and safety line
Drawing: Tony Gibson
Include a Bosun's Chair, or boatswain's chair, in the boat's toolkit. A bosun's chair is a seat used to suspend a person whilst performing rigging work.


Originally just a short plank or swath of heavy canvas, many modern bosun's chairs incorporate safety devices similar to those found in rock climbing harnesses. The best chairs are the deep-sided canvas type with lots of pockets all the way around that have covers or velcro to close them off.

If you have not bought a specially designed bosons chair already it is worthwhile making one up as presented to alleviate the danger and discomfort of any work that has to be attended to on the mast. All that is required is a piece of hardwood wide enough to sit on drilled through four times plus the lines and splices.

Key to safety in using the chair is the adoption of the safety line arrangement around the chair lines as presented and around the back of the person seated in the chair. Should the hoisting line fail or come loose, the safety line will be your lifeline. Use a screw shackle or a bowline for attachment to the chair and avoid using any existing snap-shackles that happen to be on the halyard.

When going aloft keep all tools in a separate canvas bag attached to the bosons' chair as this is less likely to catch and tip. However, it is essential to keep the area beneath the mast clear in the event that something does drop. This is particularly the case with the winch operator who, if struck and injured by any dropped tool, will then compound the issue by letting go of the rope tail. If the halyard winch is set up at the base of the mast, rig a block and take the line to a cockpit winch to get clear of the dangerous position. Tie off securely when above and have the winch operator belay the line on a cleat even if it is already in a cam or on a self-tailing winch.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession. Header image with thanks to Twinrudders.




Harken Bosun's Chair


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