This Sunday morning found me in non-descript business park tucked away in an armpit of Staples Corner, just off the North Circular. I was there with eight other boat owners to attend a course on mast climbing and descending techniques, organised by the Cruising Association. The instructor, Barney Green, is the owner of Higher Safety, an independent height safety consultancy, which works mainly in the construction industry. Barney is also a keen sailor and boat owner, and so is probably more qualified than just about anyone to teach about working safely aloft.
We started in the classroom with introductions and a presentation from Barney which covered the basic principles of working safely at height and the equipment we would be using, including a harness, ascender and descender. We then went downstairs and had a ‘horizontal’ practical session. Sadly this did not involve a kip, but rather trying out the equipment on ropes while still on the ground. After that it was time to don helmets and get climbing. Some took to this with monkey-like ease, while others found it a bit of a struggle. I was somewhere in between, finding that it took a bit of thought and some effort, but confident that, with practice, it would become second nature. We each got to try a few variations, including techniques for safe solo climbing, if desired. I sincerely hope I will not need to go up my mast while alone in the middle of the Atlantic, but if I do, at least now I’m better prepared.
We then returned to the classroom for a chat about techniques for working at the very top of our masts. This was followed by a lunch break, during which my leftovers from a recent visit to Mosob were the object of some envy, and then more climbing practice.
I think the course was a really good investment of time and money for me. Barney is planning to start offering the course more widely, and I would heartily recommend it if you’re into that sort of thing.