Monday, February 2, 2009

Harken Bosun's Chair

Last Thursday we went over some of the pluses and minuses of a bosun's chair vs. a harness, ending it off by promising a review of the Harken Bosun's Chair and the Spinlock Mast Pro Harness -- as we're men of (occasionally questionable) honor, here's our review of the Harken Bosun's Chair.

First things first - here are some of the vitals:
- Weight: 4lbs, 2.2oz

- Min. Storage Size: 22" (L) x 12" (W) x 5" (H)

- Max Weight: 220lbs. (100kg.)

The construction of this chair is pretty solid. They've used a ballistic nylon for the majority of the chair, which is rugged and chafe resistant. Highly loaded areas of the chair appear to be double sewn. It's a minor thing, but the sewing on the Velcro tabs for the two large accessory pouches was kind of slipshod -- sort of looked like they had a "Bring Your Child to Work Day" and little Johnny took a crack at it (memo to Johnny's Dad/Mom -- he sucks at sewing, get him a baseball bat).

Speaking of the two large accessory pouches, they're really generously sized. I've got them sized around 10" long, 8" wide and 5.5" deep, which fits a solid amount of stuff. We threw a power drill (yes, minus the battery pack to screw with our hypothetical high flyer), work light, hammer and a couple of screwdrivers into one of the pouches with plenty of room to spare -- also shook it around to make sure they wouldn't fall out during the ascent; no problem.

The seat has a stiff board to spread the load out -- says that it is a "ply seat", so we're guessing it's marine plywood, but we're not 100% on that one. There is also a 1" piece of foam on the seat to make it more comfortable for extended rides -- it squished all the way down under the relatively poky weight of my 175lb. frame, but that still makes it more comfortable than if they'd done nothing at all. The back panel is adjustable and helps out; at 6'1", I felt like it was a little low on my back but Rob thought it was fine (he's 5'10"). According to my Mom, I have terrible posture, so it might just be me on that one.

There is a large YKK buckle to help hold you into the chair, which also holds up the top of the back support. That buckle goes through a 1.5" wide leg strap, helping to fully secure you into the chair.

There are six attachment points on the vertical arms of the chair for any accessories that you might need to bring up with you -- two of those attachment points are sturdy stainless steel D-Rings (one on each arm) for heavier items. On the bottom of the chair there is a downhaul attachment to help keep your head pointing in the right direction. The right direction is up, b-t-dubs.

For a fine piece of American craftsmanship, I was kind of surprised that the max working load on the chair was only 220lbs - I'm sure that's a cautious number and that the chair can handle more; this is not to say that I endorse in any way sending up you're 290lb gorilla of a jib trimmer. Still, even though I come in a solid 40lbs below the limit, I kind of appreciate that my harness company basically says that if I can get the harness on, it will hold me.

In the end, I think Rob's crack evaluation of this chair is appropriate: "I wouldn't be scared going up in this thing...". It's solid in all the right places; the only criticisms that we have are minor and not load bearing. At $189.95, the price is a little steep, but if you're going to be spend a bunch of time aloft, the safety, comfort and convenience that you are afforded by the Harken Bosun's Chair justifies it.


  1. Hi Chris,

    I’m sorry you had a concern about the stitching on the accessory bag tabs on the Bosun's Chair. I am personally looking into the matter—thank you for bringing it to our attention. Quality is as essential to us as it is to you and we back our products 100%, so we’ll be happy to repair or replace the product at our cost. I will be in touch soon.


    Oakley Jones
    Harken Northeast Sales

  2. Having sewn many a piece of velcro onto other materials, I can say it usually does not look good, and does not otherwise usually reflect quality much. The inherent springiness of the hooks on velcro are responsible; they press against the sewing machine foot and foceg it upwards, and this affects thread tension. Also, the hooks themselves will, well, hook :) the thread at times and make the stitching look wobbly. Add to this that the sewer is working on something with an area of 1-2 sq inches, with 4 turns, and it is difficult to have perfect stitching on velcro tabs.

    Last, I do not work for the Harken company, and have made my own bosun's chair. But I thought I should note these things for people who didn't know them already.

  3. I have used these chairs almost constantly for almost a year and I'm very impressed - they definitely get my recommendation.
    2 suggestions:

    1. The pockets can capsize if they are lightly loaded and it is very windy. This is resolved by putting a small stitch where the front and back hems of the pocket(s) pass the bottom edge of the chair - this holds the pocket down enough that it can't fully overturn. This should be done at the factory. Had a few near yard sales of small screws, tools, etc.

    2. Lighter (gray) colored pockets would make it easier to see contents.

    Otherwise, great product!