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post #3 of Old 11-01-2013
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Re: Solo Mast Stepping System

The system shown only addresses the most simple of the issues and should not be used in any sort of wind or with a larger mast. It looks fine, but might be a lot of gizmo for the problem. I used nothing more than a gin pole and a block that took a line back to the cockpit winch for that part. Avoids the need for a winch on the gin pole. Let's call this problem #1.

Problem #2 is that the mast has no lateral stability once it starts to come down. On a large mast the hinge at the base of the mast cannot possibly hold it against the forces of the wind or, worse yet, rolling of the boat if done while floating. The standard solution for #2 is to create a hinge point for side stays that is at the same altitude as the mast hinge point. That keeps tension on the side stays while the mast is being lowered. There are two common ways to do that. One is to cut the side stay and add a ring or other junction at the hinge point. Another is to create a turning block with a large radius, so the side stay can wrap around the turning block without kinking the stainless wire. In either case, the turning point needs to be tensioned forward as the mast tips back.

Problem #3 is where the mast ends up after it's down. Unless you have a really stubby mast or a catboat rig, the mast will normally end up resting on the back rail at a point forward of the center of gravity. That means that when the hinge at the base of the mast is disconnected, the step of the mast will want to go up, with the tip of the mast going down to the water or the pavement. The solution to this is to build a rest point further astern than the end of the boat. The mast will come down on that, resting at a point that is behind the center of gravity. On my mast support I put a rubber roller, like those used on boat trailers, on the frame at the point where the mast would come down on it. Once the mast was on it, I would disconnect the hinge at the base of the mast and walk it forward. The top part (now astern) was sitting on that rubber roller and made it easy to walk the mast forward to it's winter resting cradle rigged on the bow.

It took me a weekend to fabricate my single handed raise/lower system and few sessions to perfect it, but it really helped. I could to the complete job in less than a couple hours totally single handed and worked irrespective of whether it was windy or the boat was floating in a chop. Going up and going down was all totally controlled.

Before I built that system I followed the standard procedure of calling a few guys over to the marina and having several people who didn't really understand the dynamics pulling on lines and pulling off wires. They all had other things to do on the weekend and were in a hurry. I created my system after having a few near incidents, and watching others at the marina drop their masts on the pavement due to confusion and missed communications.
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