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Old 03-15-2002
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Mast Modifications

We've found a boat we really like, but there's one problem: she's a tall rig at 51.5 feet and most of the bridges in this area only have 50 feet of vertical clearence. Do we have any options short of finding another boat?

Sue & Larry respond:
Do you have options? Yes, absolutely, you have options. Masts are shortened all the time for the very same reason you cite. When you look at shortening a rig, you’re presented with a several possibilities. Do you cut your mast down from the top, up from the bottom, or do you cut it in the middle and insert a sleeve?

There are various factors to consider before shortening any rig. Your final decision of where to cut will likely be based upon which option presents the least amount of work needed for your specific modification and the best overall results.

Depending upon where you cut the rig, some or all of the stays will need to be remade, you may need to have some of your sails re-cut, that halyard exit boxes or other hardware could need to be moved, and if you cut from the bottom, you’ll likely need to raise your boom. If you cut from the top, you may or may not be able to use your existing mast head box. None of this is really hard work, nor should it be too expensive, but there are a lot of factors to consider. We think you’d be smart to contact a spar shop or maybe a well-known rigger to provide you with personal advice and guidance. You may want to be involved in the process yourself, or let someone else do everything for you.

When you shorten your rig make sure that you leave enough room for antennas, anchor lights plus a little breathing room so that every bridge approach is not an anxious one.

Now that you’ve found that almost perfect boat, best of luck modifying that mast.

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