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BradCoy 04-12-2004 07:10 AM

Mast stepping
I just trailer my 35''ft sailboat from Panama City, FL to Fort Washington, MD. I contacted Ft. Washington Marina a month in advance and confirmed they had the capabilities to unload the boat and step the mast (55''). Imagine my surprise when I arrived and the lift operator refused to step the mast! And he was operating the identical lift that had removed the mast in FL.
To make a long story short, I am sitting at a marina in Ft. Washington, approximately 40 - 45 nm from Cobb Island, MD with only 5 days to try to get the mast re-stepped before I have to return to Savannah, GA. And the only avaliable crane company is booked until Friday AND the only person who can commit to allowing me to bring in a crane to Fort Washington Marina is off until Weds.

HELP!!! any and all suggestions are appreciated.

aflanigan 04-14-2004 11:30 AM

Mast stepping

I keep my boat upriver from Ft. Washington and I''m having trouble understanding what all the fuss is about. Presumably if Ft. Washington is a full service marina, mast stepping/unstepping would be a basic service offered along with launch/haulout services.

I think you ought to be able to find some facilities somewhere, if not at Ft. Washington, to step your mast. If need be, motor the boat with mast unstepped to a marina nearby that has a crane tall enough to do the job. But it''s hard to imagine that Ft. Washington does not have a crane that can reach about 30 feet; that''s all you need.

You also ought to be able to rig a temporary a-frame (similar to a gin-pole; it improves the angle of effort lifting the mast from the head, and also gives side-to-side stability if the a-frame is securely mounted to the deck) pivotally clamped to the deck to allow you and some helpers to safely step the mast manually.

Another neat trick I''ve heard described here at Washington Sailing marina is to use the launching cranes by the docks. The boat is tied securely to floating docks, lined up so that the centerline of the boat is aligned with the top of the crane and the crane hook. A line from the masthead (jib halyard, etc.)is threaded through the lowered end of the crane hook, the hook is then raised and gives good purchase on lifting the mast (similar to a gin pole idea commonly used), and you can pull the mast up with pretty good stability (at Washington marina you could even attach this line to a vehicle, since the cranes have pavement behind them). I''d recommend you motoring upriver to our marina to try this, but the launch cranes are not really tall, say 16 feet or so above water level at low tide, and might not be tall enough for stepping your 55 footer.

email me if you want more ideas for crane/assisted or other methods of mast stepping (

Allen Flanigan
Alexandria, VA

aflanigan 04-14-2004 11:34 AM

Mast stepping
Let me clarify the crane method mentioned above; the more common method (the one I used this fall) involves looping a line around the mid point of the mast to lift it with the crane, and then pulling the base down and attaching it. This obviously requires a crane height of half your mast height, which Washington marina doesn''t have.

The method I was trying to describe uses the crane hook simply as a fixed "sheave", so to speak, to run a haul-up line from the mast head through. The base of the mast is attached, and the mast is pivoted up from the horizontal by pulling on this "haulup" line that runs through the hook.

Hope that is understandable.

Allen F.

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