“Do you know why they put the martlets here?”
I was at that point lying with my belly across the yard and my feet on a very wobbly piece of rope. No I did not know.
“What I heard,” the experienced climber said, “was that in the old days, sailors were terrified of falling to the sea. They couldn’t swim and they had no life boats. So they rigged the martlets here so that if you fell, you would fall onto the deck. Sure, your body would be broken, but you at least had a chance of living.”
“I—” (Oof) “Would prefer—“ (oof) “The Sea.”
“Looks like you’re caught on that knot. You need to stand up a bit and move your clips so that you can slide over it.”
“That should do it. Yeah,” he said, looking down. “The sea. I dunno. It’s pretty cold today.”
It was cold. Or at least the wind was cold. My hands were neon pink and numb. I occasionally trapped the ropes with my elbows so that I could rub my hands together to warm them. I’d been worried that numb hands could lead to a weak grip, but they continued to obey me all the way up and down. Their numbness was a sulky, teenage kind of numbness, I suspect. They couldn’t quite believe I was making them work in the cold.
Back on deck I noticed that the backs of my hands and fingers were now covered with a cross-cross of faint scratches and scabs of blood from where I’d wedged them against ropes. I hadn’t felt a thing.
In short, the climbing continues to get easier.