Wednesday, May 7th, 2008
Today was the first time that the new trainees were aloft on Picton Castle. Going aloft is one of the things trainees most look forward to when they join the ship, it is also something that many of them are nervous about. Trainees are not required to go aloft and there is no stigma attached to not going aloft. Everyone is encouraged to try and the first climb aloft is strictly supervised by our professional crew.
Our aloft training started with a review of the Picton Castle safety aloft policy. Harnesses are required anytime anyone goes aloft. Trainees were instructed on how to put on and use their harnesses, to empty their pockets and remove any personal gear not attached by a lanyard, how to climb maintaining three points of contact, to climb on the weather side, how to identify standing rigging and clip their harness to it, and to not take any unnecessary risks. After discussing how to climb aloft safely, everyone put on a brand new sit harness. Harnesses were checked by the professional crew, to be sure they fit correctly and were fastened properly. The professional crew then were stationed at specific points on the fore shrouds to assist trainees with their first climb.
The first time trainees go aloft they are guided along a route that we call “up and over.” They start at the rail and climb up the shrouds to the futtock shrouds just below the top. The shrouds are angled slightly inboard, the futtock shrouds are angled slightly outboard and they can be more difficult to climb up. The first crew member is stationed at the rail, the next crew member is stationed at the bottom of the futtock shrouds to instruct the trainees on the most effective places to put their hands and feet. Above the futtock shrouds is the top which, despite it’s name, is not at the top of the mast but instead is about 30 feet above the deck. A third crew member is stationed on the top to assist the trainees with getting up onto the top. The top is a small platform and on the first time aloft, it is as high as the trainees will climb. Trainees will go across the top and climb down the futtock shrouds and the shrouds on the opposite side, again with the help of crew members stationed on the top, at the futtock shrouds and at the rail.
Each trainee who wanted to go aloft took a turn going up and over. Trainees climbed one at a time, and everyone else, including the Captain and the Chief Mate who oversaw this exercise, watched as each person went aloft for the first time. Most of them came down to deck with giant grins on their faces from the adrenaline rush and sense of accomplishment that usually accompanies a first climb aloft.
Everyone continued to wear their harnesses while procedures for heavy weather were explained. Lifelines were rigged amidships, nets were rigged amidships and in the breezeways and everyone had a chance to practice clipping their harness to the lifelines to move about the ship. The harnesses have all been numbered and one has been assigned to each person aboard for the duration of the voyage to keep with their personal gear and wear as necessary.