We installed a mast-stepping post at our boat launching site. Last weekend a visiting sailor managed to break his mast while using it. Can you offer any advice or instructional tips on how to use a mast-stepping post?
Thanks for your question. There are several types of devices for stepping masts. We're very familiar with gin poles and the more permanent devices that carry a block at the top through which a line is rove to assist with stepping the mast. If this is the kind of device you're asking about, here are some general instructions:
1. Make sure that the mast you intend to step is securely attached to the hoisting line, but also balanced. If it's not tied properly and is out of balance, it will be difficult to step and perhaps dangerous.
2. Have at least one person steady the butt of the spar as it is being raised.
3. If possible, have another person standing by to steady the upper portion of the mast by way of a hayard that's been made off and then led down to that person. This person shouldn't come into play until the mast is almost upright.
4. Once the mast is upright, secure the mast base in its seat (either on deck for deck-steppped masts or through the partners for masts that are stepped on the keel. Once the base is secure, attach the lower shrouds first, then the headstay, backstay, and upper shrouds, in that order.
Here's hoping that the above advice will help those that use your mast lift to do so trouble-free. Having the spar tied in such a way that it's balanced is the most important aspect of all of this.