Sunday, 4 March 2012

Ongoing Adventures of a Cowardly Climber

Climbing went much better this week. For one thing, I had better footwear. For another, the tarp had been taken down, so the swing onto the shrouds was easier to make. Also, my body had gotten time to adjust to the whole “ropes will move” idea.

Best advice given to me: “Never look up or down when climbing. Just watch your hands.”
Most interesting /least-reassuring advice: “Try to climb with a foot on either side of a shroud [i.e. with the vertical pole of a rope ladder between your legs]. That way if a ratlin snaps, you’ll still have one foot on a rope.”

Staring at my hands definitely helped. I managed to climb up onto the yard (the horizontal mast that forms the t of a tall ship mast).
There’s a horizontal rope that runs under the yard. This is the foot rope. You step onto it after clipping into another steady rope running along the top of the yard. Once both of your feet are on the rope you quickly shift your weight over the yard itself by putting your belly (or chest, if you’re short like me) on the yard. This allows you to drape your hands over the yard, down to the top of the sail, and from here you can gather in or loose the ropes that furl the sail.

I’m finding that once I’m about 10 feet off the deck, the height stops bothering me. It stops being “real height” and moves into the realm of “unreal height.” I think my reptile brain knows all too well the dangers of falling from heights it’s accustomed to, but once I get beyond that, it has no experience to draw on. Hopefully, if I’m occupying my forebrain with “which rope do I grab” and “how do I tie this” my reptile brain won’t wake up to the whole height thing.
I have to say, though, I’m really impressed by the experienced climbers. They can do things I haven’t seen outside of money cages, and they do them without being clipped in. One of the EC’s bypassed two trainees on the same “ladder” by going hand-over-hand down the outer rope (the vertical ladder pole). I won’t be doing that anytime soon…

While up at the yard I talked to another trainee, a woman in her 60s, who told me that she’d applied to be a tall ship climber when she was young, but had been turned down because women weren’t allowed to climb. “This is one of my life’s dreams, and I’m finally in a position to do it,” she said. Then she noted the number of women training for climbers.  Times have changed.

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