I think back in wonder at the remarkable access I was afforded. Five days into the 2,600-mile voyage to American Samoa, Chief Quartermaster Paul Bates--a cruising sailor who owned a Cheoy Lee 27 back in City Island, New York--took me aloft for the first time. Truthfully, the only vexing part of the gallop up the ratlines was swinging "over the top"--hauling yourself up and over at the tops, the platform about a third of the way up the mast, and at the crosstrees, the stopping point at the two-thirds mark. After I got the hang of it, I'd spend hours each day up in the rig, studying the long ocean swells as if they held the answers to all the mysteries of the universe. The crosstrees were my fort, and the view was better than magnificent. There was no reason to go any higher.
Until, inevitably, there was.