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Climbing my mast? Hire someone or woman-up? :)

Sep 11, 2021
23
CAL 34 CAL 34 Fortman Marina
Hi, new sailor here. Cal34. I just installed a new VHF and the antenna at the top of the mast needs to be replaced. Curious if I should hire someone or purchase whatever is needed to do it myself? I am solo, so if it requires two people for me to climb, it's a no go. Would love suggestions on what I would need to purchase to climb if it can be a one-person adventure. Thanks!
 
Oct 22, 2014
15,807
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Welcome Heather to the SBO Forum. Congrats on your new adventure... A boat, learning to sail, DIY ambitions. Sounds like your jumping into the deep end...

The CAL 34 is a great boat. Built in Southern Cal.

Climbing the mast???
How are your climbing skills? What do you know about ropes, knot tying, and safety equipment, working suspended at 30 to 40 feet in the air, inspecting and installing wire/bolts/screws/waterproofing... let alone the condition of your ropes, shrouds, stays, chainplates, mast?

All of these are considerations whether you attempt and survive this task alone or with friends.

You state you are new to boats and sailing. You just completed a basic's class. This is a new boat to you. No mention of mechanical skills, climbing experience, awareness of the risks involved, why you need a "new" antenna, condition of the fittings and wires for the antenna, or the condition of your boat, all leads me to suggest hiring a person to do this task and being there to watch and learn from the experience.
 
Nov 3, 2018
64
Cape Dory, Albin 300ms Motorsailer, Vega Baltimore
The only way I would go up the mast solo is if I had mast steps to give me a secure foothold. In the past I used mast steps, a harness with Prussik slings on a cleated off reliable halyard, plus a safety strap that I had around the mast to climb solo. Climbing a mast is no joke, think redundancy and safety, falling would be catastrophic.

IMHO, I would hire a rigger, arrange for someone to go up on a crane or drop the mast.
 
Sep 11, 2021
23
CAL 34 CAL 34 Fortman Marina
Hi John and Pagan Baby: Yeah, good point. I am not a climber (yet) haha... I think I will bite the bullet on this one and outsource. I am replacing the antenna because the coax cable is different. (boat is a '78 and I'm replacing the original VHF with a Standard Horizon.) If there's a way to use the current antenna and avoid paying someone to climb, that would make my day! Cheers!
 
Nov 3, 2018
64
Cape Dory, Albin 300ms Motorsailer, Vega Baltimore
An alternative to think about if money is tight (always the case with a boat) and your not heading too far away is to use a handheld vhf temporarily and arrange to have the mast dropped to inspect/ replace any cables/rigging/fittings as necessary. You can also buy an emergency antenna that plugs into the back of your fixed mount vhf and has a rubber suction mount although I’ve never used one so don’t know directly how well they work.
 
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Jun 21, 2004
1,852
Beneteau 343 Slidell, LA
Heather,
I have been sailing for a long time & do most projects myself. Still hire a rigger to do any work aloft. If you have an experienced support crew to help with ascending & descending that’s one thing; however, attempting to go it alone is too risky. The consequences can be catastropic. Looking at it from a financial aspect, A rigger will likely charge $150-200 to install the antenna & do a total rig inspection. Mast climbers or ascenders & bosuns chair will cost at least $500. Save some $ and put your efforts elsewhere! Don’t want to complicate things for you; however, sometimes the vhf cable & cable connectors need to be replaced also to obtain maximum efficiency from the vhf radio. I did that after purchasing my boat & it made a big difference.
Congratulations on purchasing your new boat & enjoy sailing it. Don’t hesitate to reach out for advice if you need it.
 
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Feb 21, 2013
3,608
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
Welcome to the forum!!

Are you sure you cannot reuse your existing antenna? I have replaced many VHF radios of different manufacturers on sailboats and powerboats and all were compatible with existing VHF antennas. As far as climbing the mast, make sure your climbing and safety halyards are in relative new, if not new, condition AND have a second person on deck taking up slack and cleating off the safety line as you climb. I see you are in Alameda. I am in Point Richmond can loan you my Swi-Tec mastlift climber with a 10:1 purchase (you pull on a continuous line with only 10% of your body weight makes it effortless to climb the mast without someone winching you up or physically climbing the mast) and bosun chair and glad to assist if you need to climb the mast.
 
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Oct 22, 2014
15,807
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
I am replacing the antenna because the coax cable is different. (boat is a '78 and I'm replacing the original VHF with a Standard Horizon.)
This is a good question.
VHF cables are common. There should be no difference. There may be a fitting question.
Take a picture of the back of the "new" radio and the Old radio.
You should see a cable that is either black or white with connectors like the ones in this image.
1631374667658.png
 
Oct 22, 2014
15,807
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
If not you can buy these at a local electronics store. You can also have them installed for you. no mast climbing needed.

When you look at the top of your mast do you see wire about 3ft long sticking up above the mast top?
similar to this?

1631374987726.png


Or the thin wire in the middle of this image?
1631375027410.png


That is the VHF antenna.
 
Feb 21, 2013
3,608
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
Just to add to jssailem's recommendations above..............contact the vhf radio technical serice and ask them how and what part is needed to connect your new vhf radio to your existing vhf radio antenna. That is what I did on my Hunter 46 when I replaced mine without replacing the antenna.
 
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Jun 21, 2004
1,852
Beneteau 343 Slidell, LA
Agree that the PL-259 is the standard connector used to connect the coax cable to the radio & antenna.
I used Amphenol soldered PL-259 connectors to assure a solid connection, that maximizes conductivity, that will last a long time.
If the cable & connectors are original to the boat (53 years), I would replace them while replacing the radio & antenna. Lots of potential for broken wire strands in the cable and corrosion in the connectors.
 
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Oct 22, 2014
15,807
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Lots of potential for broken wire strands in the cable and corrosion in the connectors.
A good reason to take the mast down, inspect it, replace all the wires and fittings, perhaps replace the shrouds and stays...

Easy (and safer) to work on the mast when it is at ground level.
 
Jun 21, 2004
1,852
Beneteau 343 Slidell, LA
A good reason to take the mast down, inspect it, replace all the wires and fittings, perhaps replace the shrouds and stays...
Easy (and safer) to work on the mast when it is at ground level.
Definitely agree John. When I had my boat derigged and shipped, I took advantage of the mast being off and did all of the afore mentioned maintenance. I am much more comfortable (and safer) with both feet on the ground!
 
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Mar 26, 2011
2,914
Corsair F-24 MK I Deale, MD
  1. If the safety feels different, the rigging is wrong. If the rigging is right, there is no difference in safety. It's kind of pass/fail thing.
  2. If the heights bother you... don't do it. I've been climbing and working at height for 40 years, so I have to remind myself.
  3. Unless you are just grabbing a runaway halyard, figure on 3 trips. The first is recon. If you get something done, great, if not, that's OK. Remember your camera!! The third trip is because something always goes not quite right. Don't get frustrated.
  4. Comfort is about foot bracing and padded leg loops. Add WIDE stiff padding as needed. 4" is good. Rec climbing harnesses are way to narrow without padding.
Remember, you have saved all the trouble and expense of pulling the mast. Days and a grand. Relax and expect it to take a few trips.
 
Sep 11, 2021
23
CAL 34 CAL 34 Fortman Marina
Hi, thanks to everyone for the recommendations and ideas! I don't know how to reply to individual posts, (sorry just got on today) My current antenna looks like the wire one (2nd one.) The old coax cable looked like this. (see pic) Today, I quickly took the old male connector off of the old one and stuck a new PL-259 connector to the old cable, but I didn't receive a signal on 16, but could hear the weather channels. I will give it another shot tomorrow and take more time to get it right.

Why did I think the old/new cables weren't compatible? I was told by a guy at the boat store that I had to buy all new everything. Not sure if he was mistaken or if he was trying to meet his sales quota haha.

Before purchasing the boat, there was an evaluation done and the standing rigging was rated as in very good condition. Would you still recommend taking the mast down? That seems like a daunting process, but it's definitely a possibility.

I don't think I will be climbing the mast. It's taken me 4 days to do a simple install of the depth finder unit (without the wiring) because I think I misunderstood advice from a friend on how to drill a hole thru the boat (from cabin to cockpit.) I can't imagine 4 days on the mast... :)

Good idea, I will give Standard Horizon a call Monday.

And for the record, I am not frustrated... I am learning so much and there's no place I'd rather be. A bad day on the boat beats a great day at the office :)

(I finished my skid painting today, so snuck in a pick.... so dang happy with the fresh new look!)

Pics are old cable to old
New Standard Horizon VHF (PL-259 works, I tested it on the ground with a new Shakespear antenna) I don't have a pic of the old VHF, it wasn't on the boat when I bought it.)

Thanks again for the great advice, really appreciate it!
 

Attachments

Apr 8, 2011
461
Hunter 36 Deale, MD
I thin
A rigger will likely charge $150-200 to install the antenna & do a total rig inspection. Mast climbers or ascenders & bosuns chair will cost at least $500.
This is spot in. Really recommend hiring a rigger to do a complete inspection. Best $150 you can spend. No telling how long it’s been since that was done. Surveys usually do t include more than a deck level inspection. Last inspection on my boat they found the bolts holding my radar up had backed mostly out. Have them install the antenna while they’re up there, with a new connection. That’ll be peanuts added on.
Welcome to sailing!!
 
Mar 6, 2008
681
Catalina 1999 C36 MKII #1787 Coyote Point Marina, CA.
Your image 0872 does not appear to be antenna connection. That type of plug is used for audio and headphone connections. That may be why your radio does not work. Start at the base of the Mast and see if you can identify all wires entering the Mast. I guarantee you that you will not find a gray wire entering the Mast. Co-ax cable is usually black or white and should be about 3/8" thick.
 
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Oct 22, 2014
15,807
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
I have seen a lot of coax connectors, I have not seen a VHF antenna connector utilizing a 6.5mm Jack Audio Microphone Amplifier Connector.
1631406437810.jpeg


Are you sure you have the antenna cable?

You should be finding a coax cable that looks like the images below.

1631406471677.jpeg

1631406483343.jpeg