Captain's Log

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Bosun’s Chair

By Chelsea McBroom

4:30pm, or 1630 as we say aboard the Picton Castle, and the crew was doing a seamanship workshop, this time it was all about the bosun’s chair and how to go aloft in it. The Captain explained that the bosun chair, which is essentially strong heavy rope looped through a large flat piece of wood like a swing, is spliced and crossed under the seat so if the wood broke, the person sitting in it would still be cradled.

First the Captain bent on on a long piece of new manila or poly-dacron that went up in the rig like a halyard, called a gantline, (never nylon, too springy, nor old rope) to the block before raising it up, then doing a double sheet bend with the bitter end to attach the line to the chair. He then climbed into the chair and hoisted himself up by pulling on the line while wrapping his arm around the end attached. He does this to show it can be done but told us that this is NOT how to go higher. Better to hoist the chair aloft, make it fast before getting in to it. Holding the two lines together caused friction to hold him in place, the Captain pulled the length of rope through the bridge of the chair, passing the loop over his head, around the seat and his legs and bringing it up to the highest point of the chair, near to where he held the rope. Captain says this hitch that is created is impossible to slip from. Using this knot, it will keep the chair in place without holding it by hand, and all one has to do is feed it slack and the chair will lower.

After the Captain’s demonstration the crew cheered on each shipmate as they successfully tried it themselves while Lian kept us all from swinging around too or into people’s faces. Then he discussed the alternative method and how to lower someone in a bosun chair by handling the gantline from deck. If you are lowering someone in a chair, that is your only job – no multi-tasking. And all directions are repeated and confirmed by more repetition. The person doing the lowering uses a special round turn so the line cannot slip off the pin and he or she never leaves the line and person aloft in the chair unattended.

bosun s chair workshop

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