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I sailed half way around the world before I put mast steps on Exit Only.

I had to replace a diamond shroud in Bora Bora, and I quickly realized the job would have been safer and easier if I had mast steps. Hanging on a halyard while trying to work on your rigging is possible, but it adds another degree of complexity to the job. Having your feet on mast steps bearing part of your weight gives more control to the person working aloft.

When we got to New Zealand, I went up the mast for the last time without mast steps. It took me a full day to install the folding mast steps in Whangarei, New Zealand.

On my Westsail 32, I had mast steps that did not fold. It was great having the mast steps, but my halyards frequently got tangled in the steps. Not a big deal in non-emergent situations, but if I needed to get my mainsail up in rough seas, and if the halyard was tangled in the mast steps, it made life more difficult.

Halyards don’t get tangled in folding mast steps. They are there when you need them and out of the way when not in use.

The frequency with which you go up the mast is directly related to how hard it is to climb to the top.

When Exit Only arrives in port after an offshore passage, one of the first things we do is climb to the top of the mast. If there is a rigging problem, we want to discover it when we arrive in port and have several weeks to fix it.

Checking the rigging the day before you leave means if you find a problem, you can’t set sail. You have to remain in port until you fix the problem, and sometimes it takes weeks to get it fixed.

When we had to replace a diamond stay in Bora Bora, we had to ship it to Tahiti to get a replacement. The rigger in Papeete made up a new diamond stay and sent it to the airport for shipment to Bora Bora. Unfortunately, there was a riot in Tahiti and protesters burned down the airport, and in the process, the fire destroyed our new diamond stay. The rigger had to make up another diamond stay and ship it once again. In the meantime, our buddy boat sailed on to the Cook Islands, while we were stuck in Bora Bora. That’s what happens to you when you don’t check your rigging until you are getting ready to leave. Lesson learned.

The mast steps turn your upper and lower spreaders into crows nests. When you sail in reef strewn waters, putting a crew member in the spreaders makes it easy to look ahead of Exit Only and warn us if we are heading toward a reef that cannot be seen from deck level.

Just below the mast head, we have two mast steps placed at exactly the same level so the person working at the mast head will have two steps on which to stand. That makes it more comfortable for the mast climber because it places less weight on the climbing harness which is important if you are working at the mast head for a big job that takes a lot of time.

We frequently take a Go Pro or a cellphone with us when we climb the mast. If we do FaceTime, I can see the problem on my iPhone from where I am at the bottom of the mast tending the safety halyards. Between the person at the top of the mast and the person at the bottom of the mast, we can usually sort out what needs to be done to fix the problems without making multiple trips up and down the mast.

The Go Pro footage lets us look at the mast head, blocks, U-bolts, halyards, roller furler, and code zero at our leisure to see if there is anything we missed when we were up at the top.

Even though we have mast steps, we always use the main halyard as a safety line to help hoist the person to the top. We draw the halyard up tight with every step the climber takes up the mast. We also have the halyard going through a jammer and around a self-tailing winch so that it’s hard to make a mistake during a mast climbing session. When the climber arrives at level where he is going to work, we do quadruple fixation of the climber. The halyard goes through a jammer, then around a self-tailing winch, and then is tied off to a mast cleat. Finally the climber has a short heavy duty safety line that attaches him to the mast.

During our circumnavigation we replaced diamond stays in Bora Bora and Fiji. We replaced our headstay in Gibraltar.

Mast steps make it easier to discover small problems before they become big ones, and when you find a problem, they make it easier to fix.

You can sail ten times around the world without mast steps, and if you are very lucky, you may never have a problem that requires sending a person aloft.

That being said, when we sail offshore, we do everything we can to push the odds in our favor.

Mast steps do that. They keep us honest about what is going on at the top of our mast, and that pushes the odds in our favor.

Dr. Dave

Captain Dave - David J. Abbott M.D.





Exit Only

See what it's like for a family to sail around the world on a small catamaran

Captain Save Our Souls

Awesome music video that captures the essence of what it's like to sail offshore in a catamaran around the world when conditions are less than perfect. David Abbott from Too Many Drummers sings the vocals, and he also edited the footage from our Red Sea adventures. This is the theme song from the Red Sea Chronicles.

Red Sea Blues

Sailing up the Red Sea is not for the faint of heart. From the Bab al Mandeb to the Suez Canal, adventures and adversity are in abundance. If you take things too seriously, you just might get the Red Sea Blues.

Red Sea Chronicles Trailer

If you like drum beats, and you like adventure, then have a listen to the Red Sea Chronicles Trailer.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 1 - When Flying Fish Attack

Flying fish assault Exit Only in the middle of the night as we sail through the Arabian Gulf from the Maldives to Oman. And so begins our Red Sea adventures.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 2 - Pirate Alley

Sailing through Pirate Alley between Yemen and Somalia involves calculated risk. It may not be Russian Roulette, but it is a bit of a worry. Follow Team Maxing Out as they navigate through Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 3 - Aden, Yemen

Stopping in Yemen was just what the doctor ordered. We refueled, repaired our alternator, and we made friends with our gracious Yemeni hosts. We also went to Baskins Robbins as a reward for surviving Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 4- Gate of Sorrows and Sandstorms

After you survive Pirate Alley, you must sail through the Gate of Sorrows (Bab Al Mandab) at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The Gate of Sorrows lived up to its name with fifty knots of wind and a sandstorm that pummeled Exit Only for two days. Life is good.

Patreon - Maxing Out

Captain Dave and his family spent eleven years sailing around the world on their Privilege 39 catamaran, Exit Only. During the trip, the crew shot 200 hours of video with professional cameras to show people what it's like to sail on a small boat around the world.

The Red Sea Chronicles is a one hour and twenty-two minute feature film showing their adventures as Exit Only sails through Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea. The professional footage documents their experiences in Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, and the Suez Canal. It chronicles the rigors of traveling in a remote section of the world rarely visited by cruisers. Exit Only dodges Yemeni pirates, fights a gale and sand storms in the Bab al Mandeb at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The crew explores deserted islands on the western shores of the Red Sea, and learns to check the cruising guides for land mines before venturing ashore.

The Red Sea Chronicles also has outstanding Special Features including an Instructional Video on Storm Management that tells sailors how to deal with storms at sea.

And don't forget the two Music Videos: "The Red Sea Blues", and "Captain - Save Our Souls".

The Red Sea Chronicles is a first class adventure that stokes the sailing dreams of both experienced and wannabe sailors alike.


    Team Maxing Out Sails Around The World On Their 39 Foot Catamaran

    Join Team Maxingout as they sail through Pirate Alley and up the Red Sea


    Give your dream machine a shot in the arm

    See what it's like to cruise on a catamaran before you spend a bazillion dollars purchasing one


    View the storm management video to learn how Captain Dave dealt with storms at sea

    After watching the Red Sea Chronicles you will be able to see yourself sailing on the ocean of your dreams

Red Sea Chronicles

Save A Tree Bookstore

Although I like the feel of a paper book in my hand, I love trees even more. When people purchase an eBook, they actually save trees and save money as well. Ebooks are less expensive and have no negative impact on the environment. All of Dr. Dave's books are available at Save A Tree Bookstore. Visit the bookstore today and start putting good things into your mind. It's easy to fill your mind with positive things using eBooks. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can pull out your smart phone or tablet and start reading. You can even use electronic highlighters and make annotations in your eBooks just like paper books.