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Old 05-01-2007, 05:27 AM   #1
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I've been considering installing mast steps since Lori isn't comfortable with going up the mast and she isn't big enough to get my fat butt up there. I'm thinking they are a must for cruising, but I hate the idea of putting a bunch of holes in my stick.

If you have them, what are the best to buy and what is the best method of isolating them from the aluminum to prevent corrosion? Are there any good alternatives besides having a crew with someone small that isn't afraid of heights? What about folding steps since I already have four of them at the base of the mast to help stow the main?
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Old 05-01-2007, 09:06 AM   #2
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If you have them, what are the best to buy and what is the best method of isolating them from the aluminum to prevent corrosion? What about folding steps since I already have four of them at the base of the mast to help stow the main?
-------------------------------------------------------

Hi there,

I remember putting the same question to myself a few years ago - and after looking at many ideas and designs of mast steps - found a Canadian design that had would fold away giving least wind resistance , also designed in such away to ensure that line, halyards would not snag in the step.

I also managed to find a goop that would prevent stainless machine screws from binding in the tapped screw holes - the screw would fix part of the step combination to the mast. The goop came from an outfit in Portland - Oregon.

Subsequently , this design really caught on - only one hickup was a small teflon machine screw, which was meant to prevent it rattling. This screw was redesigned.

Here a picture of the design - Click image for larger version

Name:	Mast_Steps.jpg
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I am not sure that Lori will be happy with steps as an alternative to being hauled up on an halyard ? http://www.cruiserlog.com/forums/style_emo...lt/rolleyes.gif

Richard
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Old 05-01-2007, 11:21 AM   #3
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Folding mast steps are definitely worth installing. Mine are rivetted to the mast with monel blind rivets. The steps are cast aluminium, but just to be on the safe side, I used barium paste as a barrier against galvanic corrosion.

When installing the steps, you should not space them too far apart. An extra three steps on a tall mast will make the climb to the top much easier and more important, will make the descent much safer in a seaway. It will also make the climb easier for a person with shorter legs. It is wise to place a step on either side of the mast at a distance from the cap that will make standing with locked knees easy, and still provide a good , reasonably high point to attach your safety harness.

I have placed a 'dob' of silicone on the hooked end of each step, to prevent the steps rattling when folded. Of course it goes without saying that it is still important to clip onto a halyard and have someone tail it through a winch as you make the climb.

It also goes without saying, that in the marina, like most other idiots, I have clambered to the mast top without anyone else's help. This is extremely stupid. Keep the disinfectant handy.

Cheers

David.
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Old 05-01-2007, 01:07 PM   #4
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Spot On, David.

Just don't forget to close each step on the way back down... two trips up the mast in one day and a guy my age is feeling it in the legs for a week!

To Life!

Kirk
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Old 05-01-2007, 04:23 PM   #5
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Richard,

Do you have a link for the manufacturer or distributor of those steps? Also, what are they made from? The four steps that I installed are chrome plated bronze. The chrome is giving way and they are turning green. I certainly don't want to install a bunch of green steps on my mast.

Ken
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Old 05-02-2007, 12:25 AM   #6
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I know SELDEN sells 'em - but you can probably obtain them for less money from Defender or West marine. I seem to recall that they came in two models depending on the radius of the mast section. Mine were made from cast aluminum and cost somewhere between $15 ~ $20 each.

One should never go aloft without a harness of some sort and somebody tending on deck. I personally believe that mast steps are to be used only as a way for the climber to assist the person on deck to haul your heavy butt up the mast. And a prudent sailor would always use an additional safety teather.

Getting cripled or killed by falling from the mast would definitely ruin even the best day of sailing.

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Old 05-02-2007, 01:04 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Trim50 View Post
Richard,

Do you have a link for the manufacturer or distributor of those steps? Also, what are they made from? The four steps that I installed are chrome plated bronze. The chrome is giving way and they are turning green. I certainly don't want to install a bunch of green steps on my mast.

Ken
----------------------------------------------

Hi Ken,

Here are a few URLS :-

http://www.ab-industries.com/fabrication.htm

http://www.blanchardrigging.com/index.html

http://www.mastwalker.com/

A&B have the best price for the cast solid polished aluminium steps (a third of the UK price - for essentially the same article)

Note :- if the mast is Ali and the steps are also Ali, then the problem is either the S/S machine screw or the remains of the steel pin in the blind rivet - if monel is used , they are sometimes fitted with monel break off pins . In any event, as David suggests the step should be fitted/bedded using a compound which precludes corrosion

Galvanic corrosion occurs when stainless steel or bronze fittings—cleats, tangs, winches—are installed metal-to-metal on an aluminium mast.

Every few years, mast fittings should be rebedded with zinc chromate paste, polysulfide, teflon, nylon, or tufnol (plastic) to protect the mast from galvanic corrosion. Silicone does a good job of protecting the mast, but the fittings may be difficult to get off later.

If a mast is painted, look for bubbles near fittings, which indicate corrosion. On an unpainted mast, look for white powder and pockmarks around fittings. Some powder, which is oxidized aluminum, is normal on an aluminum mast and is usually not significant. But heavy concentrations of powder, bubbles and/or pockmarks, especially deep pockmarks, indicates a serious problem that threatens the integrity of the rig. Contact a rigger or surveyor if you suspect a problem.

Ken,

I have not seen the nylon/glass equivalent of the aluminium folding step = I understand they

are rated for 300lb , whilst the aluminium has a rating of at least 500lb - so I guess Lori will be happy.

Richard
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Old 05-02-2007, 05:09 PM   #8
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Yeah, I'm 6'4" 245#...Lori is only 5'7" 110# and scared to death of heights and sharks of all things! Her worst fear would be to hang from the mast and see sharks ;-)

So, the steps are going to be a must have item before we depart.

Thanks for the links guys!
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Old 05-02-2007, 05:46 PM   #9
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Richard,

I think you gave the wrong link for A-B fabrication. I called and they said they don't make them. Do you have another link?

The best price I've found so far is $25.00/ea. I probably need between 30 and 40...ouch!

====

Just found several types on E-bay check these 316 stainless steps for $18.00/ea

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/New-316-Pol...sspagenameZWDVW
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Old 05-02-2007, 06:10 PM   #10
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Does anyone have suggestion on spacing of the step?
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Old 05-02-2007, 11:15 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trim50 View Post
Richard,

I think you gave the wrong link for A-B fabrication. I called and they said they don't make them. Do you have another link?

The best price I've found so far is $25.00/ea. I probably need between 30 and 40...ouch!

====

Just found several types on E-bay check these 316 stainless steps for $18.00/ea

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/New-316-Pol...sspagenameZWDVW
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ken,

Here is another link to another A & B industries (this one I checked out - it found the correct one , sorry about that) :- http://www.sailboatstuff.com/dk_hardware.html#maststep

the price is 18.95 US - free shipping.

The "mast steps" in the EBay link are not mast steps (but if 316 S/S - good price) these are a step that are to be used on transoms for example. Occasionally will be fitted at the bottom

of the mast to enable dropping the main etc. , I have even seen them on the side of of a boat to assist boarding.

To get the correct spacing - first go back to David's recommendations - take those on board ;

then sit on a chair - with your foot on the floor, thigh at a Rt. angle to the floor - measure the distance from the floor to the underside of the thigh - that will give you the minimum distance between steps, then measure the distance from the floor to the top of your thigh - that will give you an indication of the maximum distance between steps.

The rigger will then mark off the placement of each step - taking care to ensure that space is left between steps and shrouds, spreader,tangs etc... You will 2 opposing steps at positions where work may be required eg. the top of the mast, radar etc.. At the same fix a pad eye at positions where you can "clip on" your safety harness while working.

Richard
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Old 05-03-2007, 12:06 AM   #12
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Richard,

Thanks much for all the info! It's greatly appreciated.

Ken
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Old 05-03-2007, 01:03 AM   #13
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I have had the mastwalker style folding mast steps on my catamaran for the past twelve years. They have been trouble free, and have made working on my rigging and masthead safer and easier.

Rigging inspection is mandatory before sailing offshore. Using my mast steps, I make the trip up the mast before every offshore passage - no excuses accepted. Because of these inspections, I have discovered broken rigging strands in Bora Bora, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, and Gibraltar. My mast steps made it easy to discover those broken wire strands before they caused a problem.

Long live folding mast steps.

Cheers,
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Old 05-03-2007, 02:09 AM   #14
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I have had the mastwalker style folding mast steps on my catamaran for the past twelve years. They have been trouble free, and have made working on my rigging and masthead safer and easier.

Rigging inspection is mandatory before sailing offshore. Using my mast steps, I make the trip up the mast before every offshore passage - no excuses accepted. Because of these inspections, I have discovered broken rigging strands in Bora Bora, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, and Gibraltar. My mast steps made it easy to discover those broken wire strands before they caused a problem.

Long live folding mast steps.

Cheers,
------------------------------------------------------------->

Thanks Maxingout, your advice on rigging inspection topsides very useful and it complements the topic perfectly.

By the way, I had great fun teasing a Non-Sailor friend of mine - when showing a photo of cat

"Exit" explaining that this boat was driven by 2 small wind props electrically driven from batteries charged by these same 2 generators :-

Click image for larger version

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Richard
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Old 05-11-2007, 01:13 PM   #15
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Anyone have an opinion on this?

http://www.mastmate.com/
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Old 05-11-2007, 01:45 PM   #16
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Over the years I have seen the Mastmate system for ascending masts advertised on many occasions. I had always thought it was a particularly good idea, but as I have neither seen the system in practice, nor spoken to anyone who has used it, I have always bought folding mast steps when refitting a new boat.

That is merely fear of the unknown on my part.

As I now think about it there are a few drawbacks that come to mind. First, it will take up space down below because it is not a permanent mast fixture. Second, it requires that the mainsail is down and out of the luff track. On a small boat this may not be a problem....and indeed the system can probably be used when the sail is flaked on the boom without the slides being removed. On a big boat, however, this would make the first step up a real 'biggy'.

It would probably perform best in the marina. It would be unusable if there was a problem at the masthead and the main could not be dropped. Equally it would be unusable unless there was a suitable, free and operating halyard running over a sheave at the aft end of the mast cap. (The only way I understand, for the system to be hauled aloft). Also, I think it would be most uncomfortable having your feet in loops rather than on steps if you had to spend an extended period 'up the stick'.

It would, I imagine, be much cheaper than folding mast steps and would certainly be a better option than a bosun's chair in many cases.

This is only an opinion and one which may as the result of my ignorance of the system, be totally wrong.

It has happened before....("Yes my darling, frequently...yes...... I know....Thank you for pointing it out...Yes...I love you too")...

David
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Old 05-11-2007, 05:37 PM   #17
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We have wooden spars which once had mast steps. When refinishing the main mast, we removed these because of all those nasty little holes that let nasty things inside--like a few termites. Now, you aluminum-masted folk don't have that worry--or the worry of rot if there's water ingress. We do.

Anyway, my husband, who's sized much like Trim and is the one who needs to do all that electrical etc messing around aloft, has tried all sorts of things: bosun's chair, climbing harness, bosun's chair with harness, and finally handed over the bucks to get a Mastlift. With its 10-1 ratio, he can haul himself up--which my aging shoulders appreciate. The manufacturer seems to think the two halyards attached to the lift are sufficient: we think that's handing over your life to a single Spectra line and foolish. So, two halyards on the lift, the Spectra attachment to the bosun's chair, and a third halyard with the climbing gear attached as a safety line. The topping lift can raise and lower the bucket.

As this is a recent purchase, I'll have to let you know how well it works.

Normandie
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Old 05-15-2007, 09:58 AM   #18
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I do not like folding mast steps because:

- if you go aloft in a seaway, your foot can too easily slip out and off the step

- they are very expensive

I had fixed steps made out of 316, with a simple design which totally encloses the foot, and fitted them to my 60 foot mast for the price of four folding steps - the biggest price being the fasteners.

Entirely agree about the importance of using something to minimise corrosion between ss and aluminium. I used 40 cm step but both my partner and I are quite tall, the guidance already given on this sounds good. Do not forget that the step width needs to accept the biggest foot likely to use it with a boot on.

Getting round our radar housing, mounted on the front of the mast just below the first spreaders, and, to a lesser extent, the radar reflector, needed some thought and an extra step at a different angle than the normal ones. Two steps at the top to allow standing are vital if you are expecting to do anything but look.

Cruising in coral reef areas with only two on board is, in my opinion, only possible with mast steps up to the first spreaders

Steelfan
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Old 05-15-2007, 11:21 AM   #19
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I do not like folding mast steps because:

- if you go aloft in a seaway, your foot can too easily slip out and off the step

- they are very expensive

I had fixed steps made out of 316, with a simple design which totally encloses the foot, and fitted them to my 60 foot mast for the price of four folding steps - the biggest price being the fasteners.

Entirely agree about the importance of using something to minimise corrosion between ss and aluminium. I used 40 cm step but both my partner and I are quite tall, the guidance already given on this sounds good. Do not forget that the step width needs to accept the biggest foot likely to use it with a boot on.

Getting round our radar housing, mounted on the front of the mast just below the first spreaders, and, to a lesser extent, the radar reflector, needed some thought and an extra step at a different angle than the normal ones. Two steps at the top to allow standing are vital if you are expecting to do anything but look.

Cruising in coral reef areas with only two on board is, in my opinion, only possible with mast steps up to the first spreaders

Steelfan
---------------------------------

Some good points you raise , in particular the question of cost -

Could you give us a photograph of your design together with measurements - also what was the mounted cost of a single step.

Thanks for the additional input on an important subject.
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Old 05-15-2007, 06:01 PM   #20
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---------------------------------

Some good points you raise , in particular the question of cost -

Could you give us a photograph of your design together with measurements - also what was the mounted cost of a single step.

Thanks for the additional input on an important subject.
Why don`t use aluminum fixed steps?

They are:

1.inexpensive

2.easy to make of flat aluminum bar

3.I don`t have to worry about galvanic corrosion, I will just use aluminum steps riveted to aluminum mast by aluminum rivets...?

That is what I am thinking to do on my boat...

Regards,

Maciej
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