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  #1  
Old 11-08-2007
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Stepping Mast

Hi folks,

I have never stepped the mast on a boat before and I would like to know how difficult this is to learn and to do. It's not so much the theory of it which is obvious enough, make the big pole go from horizontal to vertical, but rather the rest of it, the things that surround that process. Once you have the mast basically up, is it difficult to attach all of the rigging and such and get it tuned so that it is safe and ready to go ? I mean does it require special tools, do you have to modify anything to put the mast up after taking it down, replace any parts when you do it, just in general I wonder how much trouble it is. Is it something you can do in 10 minutes after you have the mast mostly upright or does it take hours ?

Thanks for any pointers. I have a rigging book but it is more of a theory book than it is actual pictures of raising a mast and that type of a thing. It assumes you know basics like that.

Maybe I should just try it. I mean I have a boat, right ?

Maybe I could just take my own mast down and try to put it back up and learn all of my lessons the painful (good) way. That'll take the theory right out of it! heh.
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Old 11-08-2007
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Wind_Magic-

It would really help if you said what boat you were stepping the mast on... and whether it was a deck-stepped or keel-stepped mast.

Only an idiot would think that it is possible to answer this question without more specific information. The mast on a 13' Sunfish can be stepped without tools in about two minutes flat. The mast on the Mirabella V would take a crane and a bit of time and a crew of riggers.

If it is a keel-stepped mast, it will probably require the use of a crane or other such equipment to step the mast safely. If it is deck-stepped, then you have a few different options.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 11-08-2007 at 07:44 PM.
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SD,

It would be a stepped mast, but I'm not so interested in what is involved in getting the mast upright be it a crane or using a bridge or what have you, I have some grasp on that part of it. The part I'm more confused about is the specifics once the mast is positioned, or as it is being positioned.

But for sake of discussion, instead of talking about what I have, I'd rather talk about something I'm more interested in getting. Let's say a 34-36 foot sloop with a stepped mast. Hopefully that is specific enough.

I guess it's mostly the actual rigging process I am curious about, what has to be done to attach the rigging once the mast is up, to tune it, etc. Or rather when the mast is almost up I guess.

Thanks for responding.
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All masts are stepped but they're either deck or keel stepped unless tabernacled. Keel stepped masts pass through the house overhead and are shimmed in with wedges. A crane is used to place and hold verticle until after the wedges are in place and the shrouds attached. A deck stepped mast requires being held by the crane until bolted in place? and the rigging is attached and snugged up. Tabernacled masts typically can be raised or lower via winches or block and tackle carried on the yacht itself. Any more details will depend on the specific boat/mast in question.
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Thanks. I meant to say deck stepped, not just stepped.
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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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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
Next, the mast foot will generally be secured to the mast step.
I haven't done this part before. By "secure" there are bolts there ?

I've seen that the mast slips over a foot, so maybe that is what you mean is just that it is "secured" meaning that it is fitted down over the foot that sticks up. I understand the purpose here is to make sure the bottom of the mast can't slide on the deck and I guess the rigging just holds it hard against the deck so it can't jump up off of the foot. Maybe you mean more than that, I'm not sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
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.
Here is where I have more questions.

When you say "connected", how are they connected ? I guess the turnbuckle is connected to the cable somehow and then it is used to do the adjustment for tuning later in the process, but I don't understand this part of it at all. This is where the most fuzziness is in my mind, the part of the process I really don't understand at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
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.
I've edited out a lot of what you said and kind of focused in on the parts I am more curious about. I want to thank you for taking the time to write such a good description of the process, that is exactly the kind of information I can use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tigerregis
1. Three guys, including you
2. All the pins, turnbuckles and tools.
3. A crane to raise it; leave gin-pole etc to the future.
4. A loop with a long tail to reach the deck, under the spreaders.
5. Raise it carefully, ensuring all stays/shrouds are not tangled and vertical.
6. Attach uppers, then forestay, backstay and lowers.
7. Check for column, rake etc. Tighten, use Loos gauge if available
8. Put boom on, put all running rigging on. Check all halyards are true.
9. Bend the sails and let all sheets run. CHECK everything again.
10. Check everything again etc.
Step (4), "loop with a long tail to reach the deck", I don't understand that part. Is that to secure the bottom of the mast as it's raised so that you can guide it into place, or something else ?

Step (7), "Check for column, rake etc.", I am guessing you have to do this on land, or can it be done on the water ? And I am also guessing you are talking about using a level to check to make sure that it is vertical and lined up right, with like a piece of wood cut to whatever angle you want as a guide so that you can use a level.

Step (7), "use Loos gauge", I guess that is something that checks tension. Edit - Okay I just went and did a google search and I see how this Loos gauge works, you just kind of clip it over the cable and the tension moves what looks like a spring loaded piece to get the measurement.

Thanks for all this help!

I am going to get my rigging book out and see if I can figure out anything more, you guys have given me a good starting point. It would help if I knew more about rigging. At the moment it is all kind of mysterious, and I don't know anything about using the gauges to measure the tension, or even what the tension should be. Not knowing that means that the rigging is the subject of a lot of superstition on my part, and I am afraid to mess with it. But I want to know about it, I mean, I want to be able to do things with it myself and have that be a practical skill that I can actually use. I want to be able to do something like change out a bad component and be able to direct stepping and unstepping the mast, or even be able to do it. I don't want to have to depend on someone else to do those things because then I won't have any control on my own boat.
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Last edited by wind_magic; 11-09-2007 at 02:16 AM.
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How the mast step secures to the mast foot depends on the exact design. I left it vague for that very reason.

The reason for the long tail on the loop is so that you can pull the loop down and detach it, after the mast has been secured.

The checking for the mast being in column and vertical can be done on the water as well as land. Checking for the mast to be in column is relatively easy, as you can sight along a straitedge, like a yardstick, and see if the mast is not in alignment. Checking that it is vertical is usually done by using the main halyard to "measure" the distance to the port and starboard chainplates, and see that they are roughly equal. The reason this is usually more accurate than using a plumb line or level is that most boats don't sit perfect level in the water or on the hard. Rake is usually checked by putting a weight on the main halyard and measuring the distance it is set off from the base of the mast—greater the distance, greater the rake.

BTW, if you get a Loos gauge, get the Pro series gauges, as they're a lot better than the non-pro series and are far easier to use IMHO. Worth every penny IMHO. The way a Loos tension gauge works is it measures the distance it can deflect the wire and translates that into a tension measured in pounds—the higher the tension, the less the wire will deflect.

Finally, get Brian Toss's rigging book, The Complete Rigger's Apprentice. It is an excellent resource, although may take a bit of re-reading to get through some of it.
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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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Old 11-09-2007
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Steppin Mast

We have two wooden masts on our 48ft 1939 steel ketch, they are removed annually for varnishing and for keeping dry over the winter months, so are stepped & un-stepped annually. I usually do it with just my father and it takes about an hour including the setting up & packing up of the crane (this is the longest part of the job).
The mast is deck stepped.
To step the masts we tend to lift the mast under the top set of spreaders (we have two so we are lifting in the first third of the mast from the top) off the trestles, lifting the foot on to a wooden block to skid on the road whilst the crane is lifting the mast from horizontal to vertical once its vertical they then lift it over the boat and lower till the foot is in the tabernacle and resting on the deck.
The next process is to make up the rigging, we have a lower inner forestay so we connect this first and then the runners, the mast will stay up at this and if we are in a hurry we will drop the crane hook down and disconnect it and let him go if he and we have time we will leave the crane connected and make up some of the other rigging, there isn’t any particular order we make things off we tend to start forward and work aft. Don’t tighten things up too much as you want to set up the mast later (check the rake, alignment etc) we then do the same with the mizzen.

Removing is fairly similar but in reverse.

I have stepped a friends keel stepped mast and that was fairly similar except as discussed before you need to line it up more accurately to get it through the hole in the deck with damaging the deck or the mast.

On thing we find works well is to make sure the strops are longer than the height of the mast (if you have the jib height) as this stops the hook and block bashing the mast (I value my varnish and mast!) although we tend to try and do the job with the boat aground (less movement trying to locate it).

We also have a very good crane driver who has been doing the job for in excess of 20 years and he wouldn’t crack an egg doing the job.

We don’t set up the mast using the loos gauge we just set it up till we think its OK and go on that, we aren’t a racing boat and the wooden masts don’t want to be too tight in the rigging, the main way to check the mast is straight is to run the main halyard down the centre line (our track) and fix to a point on the gooseneck in the centre and you can then look up the halyard and check the mast (track) is true to the halyard.
We also use it to the chain plates either side to check for alignment.


I hope this helps

Last edited by mallo; 11-09-2007 at 09:31 AM.
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Old 11-09-2007
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I can step our 35' lancer mast no problem. I don't see why it could be a huge issue at all. Two people can do it without heartache.

Going up? Attach your forestay and shrouds, not diagonals. If your mast steps from rear to forward, then attach your backstay

Halyard clips on to end of boom
Other end of halyard to cleat on mast after pulling tight.
Two guy wires going from the end of the boom to the shroud chainplates (center plates)
mainsheet attaches to boom where the halyard is clipped to
lower / raise slowly, we use a 8:1 with tons of line connected to a 6:1 vang with extra line on there to make sure it gets down wihtout running out.

If you use a crane, you need a bridle. Basically a 3' section of 3/4" line with bowlines on each end.
then set up the steps above.
Next loop the bridle around the forward (or rear, depending on which direction your mast goes) part of your mast, BELOW the spreaders.
IMPORTANT - the crane must have a heavy hook to get the gravity here on earth to pull it back down to you after you stand your mast.
Crank it up, then let it sit while you attach / detach your diagonals, back or forestay, and secure the pins.

IMPORTANT! make sure the head of the crane is directly centered over your boat's centerline! Also make it slightly aft of your mast foot / tabernackle if you're pulling the mast up or down from a forward stepping mast, or slightly forward of the foot if your mast steps or lays down to the rear

It can be done with two people no problem.

99999.99999% of the time, if you're stuck or need help, there are thousands of really nice boaters out there who would gladly give you help if you simply be polite and ask! I've had to be humble and ask my neighbor at the marina for a hand, and he brought three other guys just to cheerlead!
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Last edited by Lancer28; 11-09-2007 at 09:09 AM.
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