Going aloft on a boat can be both thrilling and downright scary. Suspended 60 feet in the air, your health and life entirely dependent on a line (or two if you’re smart) and some hardware is living on a knife’s edge. It demands focus, nerves and thoughtful planning.
So why do we do it? It’s a question at the heart of world-renowned rigger Brion Toss’s fascinating new book “Falling.” Toss, whose rigging shop is a fixture in Port Townsend, has spent an entire career working high in the air on vessels both large and small. Who better to write about why, despite the dangers, so many of us choose to put life and limb on the line to climb a mast?
Anyone who has had the pleasure to meet Toss knows that he is a natural-born storyteller with a deep knowledge of his art and craft. And that wit and wisdom shines through in abundance in this wonderful and quick read.
It’s important to note that no one dies in the many tales of going aloft that Toss shares in this book. Though filled with hair-raising adventures of people working and sometimes dangling in the air, the book is not meant to scare you away from climbing up a mast (or a cliff, or jumping out of an airplane). Rather, it is a poignant and entertaining look at why we humans do it and what mindset is required to do it safely.
Toss recounts a number of tales, including working on a yard of a tall ship only to discover his partner in the project is thoroughly drunk. He tells the hilarious story of a skipper working on his furling gear who discovers how the physics of inertia can quickly ruin your day. And he masterfully recounts the events of a military parachute jump gone horribly wrong.
If you know Toss or follow him on Facebook, then you are probably aware that he is in the midst of having his ankle surgically rebuilt, the result of a long ago fall from a scaffolding early in his career that nearly cost him his life. Writing a book about falling in the midst of his recovery could have turned the topic into a sour and regretful look back.
But that isn’t Toss’s style. Instead, he celebrates the work of his profession — and others that require laboring high above the safety of the ground. He mixes this with insightful takes on the human nature involved in climbing and practical tips on how to approach working aloft safely and successfully.
“Falling” is a fast, fun and informative read. It should be in the e-library of anyone who goes aloft for work or as part of their hobby. It is available for $5.99 as an e-book on Amazon and Apple iBooks for immediate download.