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In general terms, the process is a bit different depending on whether the mast is keel stepped and has to pass through the deck, or deck-stepped. All masts are stepped—it is a question of where they are stepped.
If the mast is deck-stepped, it can often be raised using an a-frame, although on a boat in the 34-37' range, the mast is getting a bit large to do that with safely.
Let's say we are using a crane to step the mast—this minmizes the differences between deck-stepped and keel-stepped, since a crane can do both relatively easily.
Generally, the standing rigging will be attached to the mast while the mast is off the boat. Then the mast will be raised, usually by hoisting it using an attachment point just a bit above the balance point of the mast. The crane will then swing out and lower the mast so that the mast is over the mast step—in the case of deck-stepped mast—or lower the mast through the mast partners (deck opening) to the mast step on the keel.
Next, the mast foot will generally be secured to the mast step. With the crane still connected, but the mast sitting on the mast step, the stays and shrouds will then be connected. The order they're connected in doesn't really matter much IMHO. In the case of a keel-stepped mast, you would insert the mast wedges or shim system at this point.
Once connected, the rig will be tightened until it is fairly taut—checking to make sure the mast is in proper alignment and centered. Final tensioning the rig depends a lot on what type of rig it is and how many shrouds/stays there are. In many cases, the crane is left connected until the rough tensioning job is done as a safety precaution, to prevent the mast from tipping over and causing any damage or injury.
Some boats have very little in the way of standing rigging. For instance, the Freedom series of boats are basically cat rigged with a freestanding carbon fiber mast. Some have a forestay for a small blade jib... but some have no stays or shrouds at all.
Other boats will have very complicated rigs. A complicated rig might include double lower shrouds, diamond stays, swept spreaders, etc.
I hope this helps.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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