Over the Top

Yesterday was my first time playing in the rig going aloft. I climbed up the mizzen on the starboard side and made my way back to the deck down on the port side.

I have climbed ladders before and done a fair bit of rock climbing, but this was different. Climbing the rig of a tall ship is different than a ladder or a rock face in that it is mostly made of rope and moves around more. The rules of the ship require that all climbers wear a harness, but for most of the climb you’re not using it. The climber doesn’t clip in to anything until they reach their destination or need to navigate a tricky spot in the rig. For the most part it is a free climb.

I began by climbing up the rig. I took my time getting used to my surroundings. The path up was fairly simple. As I neared the top the rigging became narrower and I began to question what I was doing up there 60 or so feet above the deck. But I told myself that I must keep going and so I did.

I made use of my harness for the first time as I clipped into the very top of the rigging where it attached to the mast. I was about to lift myself up onto the spreaders so that I may stand atop the mizzen mast. Once standing atop the mast I became aware of where I was and that there was not much between myself and the deck below. I began to look for a place to clip my carabiner into. On a tall ship that pretty much means anything that is solidly attached to the ship. I clipped onto one of the back stays, but realized that if I was going to go around to the other side I would need another spot to clip into. My problem was that there was very little on the fore part of the mast to use as an anchor point. And I sure as hell wasn’t about to go around with out being clipped in as there was almost no footing other than the spreader on the opposite side of the mast. Fortunately there was a space between the lower mast and the top mast where I could toss my lanyard through and bring it around to clip into myself. Once this was done and I was “securely” attached to the ship I made my was around to the port side.

Making my way around was easy. Once happily atop the port spreaders I took a moment to appreciate the view and also appreciate the insanity of what I just did. Once I took it all in, I made my way down the rigging back to the deck. I had officially gone up and over in the rig of a tall ship.

The rest of the day we continued working aboard getting the ship ready for winter. We took down the t’gallant yard from the foremast and the topmast from the main. Over the course of the next few weeks the entire rig is coming down including all three lower masts and the bowsprit. Not much more time for climbing this season.

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