Author Topic: Best way to make a bosun's chair / sit-harness?  (Read 262 times)

PolymathArtisan

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Best way to make a bosun's chair / sit-harness?
« on: August 19, 2019, 03:04:29 PM »
In many knot books you will learn that a bowline on a bight can be used to improvise a bosun's chair or climbing / rescue harness. I spent last week sailing on the broads (as a volunteer staff member with a youth group) and I relished the several chances I had to practice this.

The boats are very simple, and it easy to pull the wrong line and lose the pulling end of the halyard at the top of the mast. (I know that the solution to this is to tie a stopper knot at the point where the halyard goes through the block at the top of the mast, but this hadn't been done on any of the boats at the time). To get it back the easiest way is to send a small child (an experienced pole / mast climber) up the mast. I insisted on a safety line, and improvised a harness. My first one was a bowline on the bight for leg loops, with the tail then wrapped around the climber's waist and bent to itself (where it had exited the bowline) with a sheet bend. A halyard for a safety line can then be shackled (or bent if necessary) to the sheet bend, or to a loop knot in the tail (as a haul / lifting loop). This design worked well as a safety harness for a climber, but I also later tested it myself as a bosun's chair (as in, the person in the harness does not climb, but is hoisted up with the halyard by people below). It worked fine for this too.

I also made variations (for similar later incidents) with crossings between the 'belt' and leg loops and with shoulder straps, with combinations of mid loops and diagonal crossings over the back and bum.

My quick design worked with the knots I knew, but I imagine something like a Spanish or Portuguese bowline might be preferable, as would maybe a more complex harness than just leg loops and a belt.

In your knowledge or experience, what is the way to make a harness? Perhaps there are different answers to that for different applications? Or if it needs to be quick or will be used permanently? Any other information or accepted methods would be great!

Thanks, PolymathArtisan

agent_smith

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Re: Best way to make a bosun's chair / sit-harness?
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2019, 01:09:18 AM »
Thanks for your question PolymathArtisan,

I read through your post a few times to make sure I understood the nature of the issue.

Ok - so firstly, a 'bosuns chair' is a completely different item of PPE compared to a 'harness'.
(PPE = personal protective equipment)
The term 'bosuns chair' (these days) means a rigid seat which is used to prevent the effects of suspension in a harness (which can be quite uncomfortable).
See attached photo.

Now I understand that you want to improvise a solution by simply configuring something from hand tied knots.
It costs nothing - and its cheap.

But, when someone climbs up a mast - there is a risk of a fall from height.
You don't mention the exact height that the 'child' or person has to climb - but I would imagine that a fall on to a deck of a boat would expose the person to sharp objects or various protrusions and rigging that could cause injury or death?

One of the best value simple design and easy to fit climbing harnesses on the market is made by 'Rock Empire' and the model name is 'Speedy'. it is fully adjustable (one size fits all) and the buckles are auto (self-locking). It is light weight and takes up almost no volume when stowed.

There will IGKT members on this site willing to provide info or explain how to configure an improvised harness - but, there is still the human factor and potential for error.
I know that some will be eager to offer their expertise - and no doubt they will.

But, consider that a 'Speedy' harness only costs around $50 US dollars - and you have peace of mind.
I will say that the metal buckles will need to be wiped down with anti corrosive/water displacer after being exposed to the salt water environment - but once wiped down it can be stowed in a bag to keep it dry and free of contamination.

This is food for thought for you... you may still wish to try to configure your own 'homebrew' improvised harness from rope - and if you do, it must be foolproof and not slip off easily from the user.
In the days before modern cheap harnesses were invented, sailor improvised with rope.

A Portuguese Bowline was used by mountaineers and sailors at one time - the multiple loops can be splayed apart to create leg and waist loops (you need both leg and waist loops).
There a number of different improvised solutions you'll find on the internet - all require a degree of due diligence.
Mike Karash posted this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EyfYyJkZss
At 3:33 in the video, he describes how to improvise a harness from rope....might also be worth a look.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2019, 01:11:29 AM by agent_smith »

PolymathArtisan

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Re: Best way to make a bosun's chair / sit-harness?
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2019, 11:09:34 AM »
Thanks for your response agent_smith.

Thanks for the clarification. I have heard the terms used interchangeably on boats, and there can be a bit of overlap, but the clarification is important.

I heartily agree that a proper harness is always preferable and is definitely worth the money on any boat. The speedy harness looks good, but any good climbing harness would be good much better than a rope alternative.

That said, we needed to send someone up the mast. The child volunteered and had significant experience climbing similar poles (she did chinese pole classes at a circus centre) and of a similar height (although this was a swaying mast on a boat in the water, with no crash mats underneath, and yes, with several dangerous protrusions on the deck). She and some other members of staff agreed that she could climb the mast (without a safety line of any kind). I insisted that if she was going up she would have to have some kind of safety line, and in the absence of a proper harness on the boat an improvised thing from rope is a much better idea.

I suppose this is a bit like shackles/rappelling devices and knots. There are many situations where a piece of hardware (a shackle, a block, a specific rappelling device, a carabiner etc.) would be preferable, but a person skilled in that field would know the knots which could replace it if necessary if the hardware was unavailable and something was needed. I would much rather have sent her up on proper harness, but with none available, i had to improvise. Foreseeing that such a situation could happen again, I would like to learn the best way to do so.

Thanks for your thoughts about the Karacs double loop harness and it's variations I hadn't thought of having two horizontal loops for the waist and chest, that's a good idea. In my travels through youtube I also found the similar 'swiss seat', though I think I refer the Larash concept because of the extra support on the chest.

roo

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Re: Best way to make a bosun's chair / sit-harness?
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2019, 02:59:55 PM »
I agree that a real harness is preferable to plain rope in all but emergency situations where you have no choice.  In the emergency case, you can look at a couple options here: https://notableknotindex.webs.com/triplebowline.html
« Last Edit: August 20, 2019, 09:06:04 PM by roo »
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Dan_Lehman

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Re: Best way to make a bosun's chair / sit-harness?
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2019, 04:32:38 PM »
In many knot books you will learn that a bowline on a bight can be used to improvise a bosun's chair or climbing / rescue harness.
As knot-book authors parrot prior books' contents.
Beware what you read about knots!   >:(

Quote
I also later tested it myself as a bosun's chair (as in, the person in the harness does not climb, but is hoisted up with the halyard by people below). It worked fine for this too.
By "fine", do you mean to say that you would be
amply comfortable (and circulation-wise safe)
spending much of any time in this seat?


--dl*
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PolymathArtisan

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Re: Best way to make a bosun's chair / sit-harness?
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2019, 11:33:08 AM »
Quote
As knot-book authors parrot prior books' contents.
Beware what you read about knots!   >:(

Good point. One of the reasons I like this forum so much!

[quoteBy] "fine", do you mean to say that you would be
amply comfortable (and circulation-wise safe)
spending much of any time in this seat?[/quote]

No. I think in hindsight 'just-about-useable-for-brief-periods-as-a-hoist-harness' is probably a better description. It was useable, but it wasn't very comfortable.

Dan_Lehman

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Re: Best way to make a bosun's chair / sit-harness?
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2019, 04:07:17 PM »
Quote
As knot-book authors parrot prior books' contents.
Beware what you read about knots!   >:(

Good point. One of the reasons I like this forum so much!

Quote
By "fine", do you mean to say that you would be
amply comfortable (and circulation-wise safe)
spending much of any time in this seat?

No. I think in hindsight 'just-about-useable-for-brief-periods-as-a-hoist-harness' is probably a better description. It was useable, but it wasn't very comfortable.

There IS a novel (to my awareness, discovering it for myself)
way to form a comfortable, capable sit harness from seat belt
(well, 2 B really comfortable) webbing.
With a piece about 12' long (YMMV),
tie bowlines around the thighs,
then flip the between material back over the
back and bring from each side a bight
of this to then tie a Lapp bend (aka "a backwards
sheet bend), the SPart of which will be a bight
aka a "loop" to tie-in/clip-in to!
(I've not tried this with regular 1" tubular or solid tape.)
((And now I'm imagining using a long round sling of
rope so as to have double bearing; the bowlines could
be BoaBs.))
This tying can get the structure adequately snug
to the body for walking around, et cetera.  (Never
danced in it, but I think that it's possible, for those
with such inclinations, or who sit on a yellowjacket
nest or cocklebur  [<- which this speller doesn't recognize].


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