Captain Jerome pulled his 24′ sailboat alongside the dock. “Do you have a bosun’s chair?” he wondered. “No, but I could probably make one,” I said, glancing over at the stack of lumber on the dock. A bosun’s chair is basically a rope swing–a board for a seat with a rope attached–used to hoist a sailor aloft for repairs to the upper mast and rigging. Drill a couple of holes in a plank, thread a line through the holes, tie a knot. Presto! A bosun’s chair. When I showed Capt. Jerome the finished product, he looked me up and down. “How much do you weigh?” He figured that it’d be easier for him to hoist me aloft than vice versa. As Jerome raised me up the mast on the halyard, the wind picked up and the boat swayed . Once aloft, I changed the blocks (pulleys) for the lift and halyards. Each block was attached by a shackle with a tiny split ring. To get an idea of the tediousness of this task, imagine trying to taking keys off a key ring one by one without dropping them while dangling 30 feet in the air, squinting into the sun and swaying side to side in a stiff breeze. As if the conditions were not difficult enough, wakes from passing powerboats rocked the sailboat even more. In retrospect, no doubt it would’ve been easier and less risky to lower the mast for these repairs than to hoist me aloft into this precarious position.
Note: “Bosun” is an abbreviation for “boatswain,” meaning “boat’s husband.” On a traditional tall-mast ship the bosun is the person a ship in charge of repairs to rigging.