Matt, we feel awful for you. But glad you're alive to tell the tale. Thank you for sharing this. It's a stark reminder of lessons learned the (very) hard and painful way. We wish you a speedy and full recovery.
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Date: 2021-05-01 14:30 (GMT-05:00)
Subject: [AmelYachtOwners] Mast Climbing Safety
As some of you are aware, back in February I gutted the NMEA0183 network and instruments on Talia, and replaced them with a new set of B&G NMEA2K kit. The project took me 2 weeks, and was a great deal of fun. I was alone, so was not planning to complete the mast work (radar strut replacement, radar replacement, VHF antennae replacement and wind instrument replacement). That would have to wait for another trip to the Chesapeake (preferably in warmer weather).
To my great joy, my amazing wife surprised me by traveling the 650 miles to come give me a hand over the last 4 days of work scheduled. We churned through the to-do list like champions. With 2 days left I decided it was a great time to add the mast work to the list and knock it out. Next trip we could commission the system and be back on the water!
I had been up the main mast twice to remove and start the wire pull, and up the mizzen twice removing the old radar dish and pulling he new radar cable. My next trip up the mizzen was to replace the radar strut and add the new dish. Piece of cake....all the steps were preplanned, tools were laid out in batches, and I was ready to go.
Going up to the radar dish is no big deal as I was only up 27.4 ft from the cockpit deck (I just didi it twice). We were short of time, it was time to get this done. Harnessed up on February 25th I was being winched up the mast, made it to just above the radar dish where I wanted to be, and the halyard slipped from the clutch. I fell just under 30 ft to the deck of Talia.
Somehow I hit the Bimini, bounced off, landed on my left leg atop the cockpit seat next to the mizzen, and fell in the open space towards the companionway. I managed to only break my left leg in 6 places. If the Bimini were not in place, I would have hit the helm seat and either died or worse broken my neck and been paralyzed. I have had exceptional medical care and am expected to make a full recovery in hopefully a year.
I write this note to all of you, not looking for sympathies or well wishes, but hoping you do not make similar stupid mistakes. I single dumb decision has costed my family to fear the worst for my health, cost over $200k in medical bills (gotta love the American medical system), and a great deal of personal pain from surgery and rehab. And I am not done yet.
I have been the Chief Safety Officer in two industrial plants. I work in the Aerospace industry where people die when you do not follow the rules. As an engineer, following the rules and playing out safety risks is how I work....except this time for some reason.
I was in a hurry with only two days left. The work was only 20-30 ft up the mast....What's the big deal? Did Michelle and I talk about how I wanted to go up? Yes, we did. Did she say to me, "Do you want to use the starboard line as a secondary?" Yes, and I declined.....too much time....only doing a job at 20-30 ft.
Every single coworker I have told this story has responded the same way, "YOU would not make that kind of decision and do that!" It took less than 2 seconds to have this lapse in judgement, because I felt the pressure of meeting a timeline (that I imposed on myself!). I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend the next year paying the price.
My hope in this message is that it will give you pause when working on your fine machine. Electrical, mechanical, mast work, scrubbing the deck, using power tools...whatever, there are opportunities to make the right and the wrong decisions that can harm you and the people around you. Please use my example as one that did both.
I wish you all well, and hope I have not come off too preachy.
Matt & Michelle Day
SM#208 SV Talia