Putting your mast in

How long is it since you had your mast out and checked your rigging?

Some of us do it several times a year and think nothing of it, others dread the process and avoid it,  I hear stories of masts that haven’t been out for 10 plus years, I wonder what might be going on in unchecked rigging and masts !

Recently we have been asked by a number of people what is the best way to take a mast out and put it back in. On this page we show you how to use ‘the sticks’ or bipod method as we do at Sandy. We have carefully selected a couple of reprobates and picked a bright green boat so it stands out. Our stars are Ron Thompson, Fitzy and Janet.


th_20131129_181659In the picture above, the boat is set up on the trolley so it is pretty steady and facing into the wind, with the mast lying on the pushpit and pulpit with the butt end facing forward, this is important, it doesn’t work well the other way around. The sticks are now on deck over the top of the mast and with the top facing forward.

th_20131129_183606The sticks back stays are tied around the poles and through the saddles which are only there to stop the rope slipping down the poles. Do not attach to the saddles only.

th_20131129_181729The sticks forestay is lashed to the deck ring in this case but it can go onto the boat’s forestay if required. It just needs to be lashed loosely at this stage as it will probably need to be adjusted once the sticks are upright.

th_20131129_181941Its best to use two people to raise the sticks to the vertical, one can then hold it steady while it is attached.

th_20131129_182152In the pic above Janet is controlling the backstays as the boys raise the sticks. She will tighten them using the primary winches and cleats once the sticks are in the right place. The backstays we use for this process are the boat’s own genoa or kite sheets as there is no damage to them in the process.

th_20131129_182010Here Ron is attaching the sticks locating pin through the outboard shroud point. We do this so that the lower shrouds can be attached to steady the mast if necessary before the sticks are taken down.

th_20131129_182157Fitzy is tightening up the stick’s forestay once the optimum position is reached. This should be with the top of the sticks just forward of the vertical mast line.

th_20131129_181756The mast hoisting position is about a metre down from the spreaders and here Fitzy is tying a loose bowline around the mast, through the shackle on the end of the block and tackle and then attaching a distance control down to the top kite pole loop on the front of the mast. It is important to make the loop loose, not tight, otherwise it won’t slide back down the mast easily when the job is done. The distance up the mast is important as with our length sticks any closer than about a metre to the spreaders and you won’t be able to get the mast high enough above the deck to get it into the mast hole. But you want it as far up the mast as you can to make the lifting easier and more balanced. A bit of trial and error here to get used to your sticks is required. In these pics the loop has been tied while the sticks are still down but it can be done once they are raised as well.

th_20131129_182311Once all is tied and checked – make sure all your rigging is tidy as it may catch on things causing you to drop the mast back down to clear stuff and frustrate your crew. Make sure your halyards are run correctly relative to your cap shrouds otherwise you will have to get them through the gap over the spreaders later. Janet is ready to lift the top of the mast, fitzy is doing the lifting on the block and tackle and Ron is guiding the butt end of the mast. Start your lift.

th_20131129_182341As you can see the lifting point is moving aft of the sticks and Ron is now holding the butt end down so that it pivots upwards as Fitzy lifts it higher. At this point check that the spreaders are not getting caught on the sticks’ backstay, you may have to rotate the mast a little to clear them.

th_20131129_182405Ron is now having to pull the mast butt aft as he holds the end down. The sticks may bend and wobble a bit here and be careful to allow for wind, best to have the boat aligned with the wind for and aft.

th_20131129_182426The mast is now nearly on top of the deck hole with Ron guiding it. Note how close the lifting point is to the top of the sticks, the boys only just made it in this example. Janet is preparing to go down below to guide the mast butt onto the I beam mount.

th_20131129_183010The mast will wobble around a bit, but we haven’ lost one yet.

th_20131129_182935Here Ron is tightening up the bolts of his mast collar, you will need to do this before you tighten up your rigging. To remove the sticks, ease off a little on the backstays and remove the pins from the bottom of the sticks and walk the bottom of the poles aft as you lower the top down to the front. Undo the sticks backstays and forestay and walk the sticks off the front of the boat to a helper on the ground. Job nearly done, attach and tighten your rigging, the mast will sit nicely in it’s hole while you do this even in a reasonbly strong breeze. Remember your boat has been sitting on it’s keel and a couple of supporting pads – very much point loaded. So don’t think more people up there on deck is better – it isn’t. Three is a good number but once you get the hang of it, you can do is just as easily and quickly with two.

To take your mast out, simply reverse the process.  And let it down gradually with someone at the back to catch the top of the mast. Note here,  make sure you have plenty of room behind the boat as the mast will overhang the back of the boat a few metres – look after the wind gear !


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