Andy Whittaker is a climber and sailor, and has over 15 years experience working at height as a mountaineer safety supervisor and industrial abseiler. While sailing across the Pacific, he was regularly asked about the climbing equipment and technique which he used to ascend his mast. That was the beginning of Aloft Alone…
Safety at height and work in remote places
Andy qualified as an IRATA roped access technician in 1997, and as an IRATA level 3 supervisor in 2003. He has since worked as both an industrial abseiler and safety mountaineer on jobs that have taken him to locations as diverse as Antarctica, Oman, and Yemen, as well as remote lighthouses around the British Isles.
Climber and sailor
Andy’s passion for climbing and sailing has taken him all over the world. After working in Antarctica and on several sub-Antarctic islands (2002 – 2004), he set off for Patagonia to climb. Whilst there, he discovered the allure of sailing to remote locations in order to climb, and bought his first boat, S/V Zephyrus, a 37ft Arlberg Southerly. He spent several years using Zephyrus as a platform to explore around Tierra Del Fuego, in the Patagonian channels, and out to the Falkland Islands. He was also invited to join S/V Tara V (formerly Sir Peter Blake’s ‘Seamaster’) on a wildlife conservation trip to the incredible island of South Georgia. Today, he continues to work on science and conservation expeditions to sub-Antarctic islands.
Pacific crossing to New Zealand
In 2010, Andy and his wife sailed across the Pacific from southern Chile to New Zealand on S/V Zephyrus. They have since bought a new boat, S/V Baltazar, a 52 ft Damien II expedition vessel, with which they plan to return to the high latitudes – this time with space for friends.
Home is now Wellington, New Zealand. Andy works less as a mountaineer and more at sea. Since arriving in New Zealand in 2010, he has qualified as an Offshore Yachtmaster (RYA) and Inshore Launch Master (Maritime NZ). He is a regular 1st mate aboard the 52ft cutter rigged sloop, S/V Tiama, which takes science and conservation workers to and from the New Zealand sub-antarctic islands. He has also worked on the tall ships, R. Tucker Thompson and Spirit of New Zealand, and is working his way towards his Offshore Master’s ticket.
Self-reliance and the creation of Aloft Alone
“What all these adventures and work environments have taught me is the need for self reliance and the ability to get the job done the right way, with the minimum of fuss. On many occasions I have been asked how I climb my mast, and I have explained or shown the climber’s approach to ascending and descending a rig.
I feel very well qualified to be promoting this method. This style of climbing is nothing new or revolutionary, it is in essence a very simple, safe, and elegant method of ascending and descending your own mast.
After watching the instructional videos and practicing two or three times ‘alongside’, you – without any assistance – will be able to safely ascend or descend your own mast, either dockside or at sea in most reasonable conditions. That said, ‘going aloft’ at sea (sometimes with even just a lazy roll) can be hard work. Prior planning and checking of your rig using your Aloft Alone kit might just save you from having to go up at sea at all. But if you have to, then this is the way.”