Safe mast raising Solo (was: Pottering Blunders-- )
Mon, 30 Aug 1999 14:39:32 EDT

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West Wight Potter Website at URL
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Thomas wrote:
Do need to figure out some safe way
to lower the
mast by myself if need be--Any Advice?
Thomas Westerman
P19 #578
Colorado Springs.

If you have a winch on your boat, you can probably figure out some way to use it. I raise and lower my mast with the winch.

I'm a 105 pound woman, and I do need my husband's help for the first few feet of mast raising (got an idea on how to change that but haven't implemented it yet). I can lower it safely all by myself

I'm sure other folks have figured out diffent systems, but this one works even for a small (or bad back or arthritic)person. The basic setup is this

1. Use the factory installed babystays (or install some) to keep the mast from swaying sideways (they won't keep it perfectly centered, but they will limit the sidesway enough to prevent damaging the maststep or dropping the mast over the side of the boat)

2. Use jib halyard or main halyard for raising lowering.

3. Run the halyard from the front of the mast to a block on the bow pulpit. You can install the block using a stanchion bracket. Look in a marine parts catalog for the bracket

4. Run the halyard back to the winch , using fairleads (or deck organizers or blocks) that have backing plates under them (very large SS fender washers will do for this load) . On most winches, you need to have the line coming up from the deck at about 8-10 degrees for it to wrap correctly. (Harken #6 requires at least 8 degrees, and I find 10 degrees works perfectly) So you may need a fairlead somewhere near the winch.

5. Install a horned jam cleat near the winch to secure the halyard. Occassionally, you will need to pause in mid-operation to unsnag a line, etc. I don't reccommend using a cam cleat here, because you can accidentally release a camcleat -- and your mast will come crashing down. A horned jam cleat has enourmous holding power and is very secure, is affordable, and is very quick to use.

Operation is straightforward.
1. Drop the mainsail and secure the "sail" end of the main halyard on a cleat on the mast.

2. Run the "hoisting" end of the main halyard thru the bow pullpit block, then back to the winch and wrap three times.

3. Use the winch handle to pull the halyard tighter, then cleat it off while the halyard is still wrapped around the winch. Go forward and release the forestay. If you have a CDI furler, attach a 2' bungee cord between the drum and the cleat on the fordeck to keep it from falling overboard as you lower the mast.

4. Go back to the winch and slowly ease out the halyard, using the winch as a brake. If you need to pause, just cleat off the halyard.

5. Use bungee sail ties to tidy up the shrouds and secure the CDI to the mast, so it's safe to move around the boat.

You may need to buy new rope for the main halyard to be sure it frictions well on the winch, but what you've got is probably find. Also, if your winch is ancient, the finish on the drum may have worn or corroded off, and the line will slip.

The standard main halyard won't be long enough to run aft so you have two choices: Get a new longer one (I think you need about 15 feet more, but it will vary according to how you run the line aft).

Or you can use an auxillary line attached to the main halyard. That's how I do it.
1. After you've dropped the mainsail and tied the "sail" end to a cleat, tie a bowline knot on the "hoisting" end of the main halyard at about boom level.
2. Attach your auxilary line to the bowline, and run the auxillary line thru the bowpulpit block and back to the winch.
3. Lower the mast onto the mast crutch.
4. Leave the auxilary line attached and rigged thru all the blocks and wrapped around the winch for the next time you have to raise the mast.

Make sure the line you use has good holding friction on the winch. Buy proper halyard line, don't use rope from the hardware store.

As for the mast crutch, Solar Fry installed an extra set of gudgeons to hold the mast crutch so he could still use his rudder for steering while using the outboard. Put them as close to the centerline as you can to keep from bending the mast step. Or else remove the rudder and stow it.

I have a winch and deck organizers on my cabin top, so I run my mast hoisting lines from the bowpulpit to the cabintop. But there's no reason why, with a little careful planning, you can't run the line to existing winches on the side of the cockpit.

Hope this gives you some ideas. One of these days, I'm gonna stop working on my P19, and fix my computer so I can scan and post some pictures so y'all can see it, rather than having to read my sometimes verbose descriptions.

Judy B